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5 Signs You Have Dementia and Aren't Aging "Normally"

These warning signs should not be ignored.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

What are the signs you have dementia and it's not just "normal" aging? There are a few and they're important to know. For although you may joke, at times, that you had a "brain fart," or struggle to remember so-and-so's name, a certain pattern of behavior can be more alarming. "Normal aging may include weakening muscles and bones, stiffening of arteries and vessels, and some age-related memory changes that may show as: Occasionally misplacing car keys. Struggling to find a word but remembering it later. Forgetting the name of an acquaintance," says the CDC. But read on to see the signs of actual dementia; we've listed 7 key signs—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


You're Forgetting Recent Events or Information

memory exercises

Perhaps you can remember exactly where you went on your first big date…but can't remember what you did last week, or if you did a recent grocery shop. "One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same questions over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own."

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You Bought Things You Have No Memory of Buying

Woman unpacking unboxing Amazon cardboard box logotype printed cardboard box side.

Tales of folks with dementia ordering Amazon packages—or in one case, a car—and having no memory doing so is becoming more common now that purchases are a click away. This kind of errant spending can be a sign of money issues in general. "In time, it may become apparent to a carer that, even with support, the person with dementia is struggling to cope," says the Alzheimer's Association. "For example, they may fail to understand what needs to be paid, overpay for some things, or leave money unaccounted for."

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You Repeat Yourself Over and Over in a Short Period of Time

A grandfather having a conversation with his grandson at a party

One grandmother with dementia was watching her granddaughter come in and out of a room. "Oh, she's so beautiful," she'd say when the toddler ran past. "Whose is she?" Then the child would run into the room again. "Oh, she's so beautiful," said the grandmother. "Whose is she?" And again and again—each time, she could not remember who the child belonged to, and repeated herself. Another time, at a diner, a grandfather told a raucous story about a time he'd had with old friends at a bowling alley. When finished, he got up to use the restroom, leaving the table laughing. Upon returning, he sat down and proceeded to tell the exact same story, beat for beat.

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You Misplace Items You Use All the Time

Bunch of keys lies on a wooden table.

It's completely natural for the Scotch tape to go missing in a busy household, or for you to forget which of your dozen pockets the car keys are in. But if you use an item consistently—like, say, a medication, or eyewear, or, yes your car keys—and misplace them in strange places, like, say, in the soap dish, or on the stove, then this is cause for concern. 

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You Do Not Know the Date or Time

A senior man checking time on wristwatch outdoors.

During the pandemic, it's been a common joke to say the days have gone by in a blur and time doesn't matter. But even the most socially distanced of us know when and where we are, if we are in our right mind. Those with dementia do not always feel this way. They may not be able to come up with the date or time, or think that it is a different date or time.

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You May Experience a Change in Mood or Interests

selective focus of depressed african american man sitting with bowed head

In one of the more disturbing threads of the recent film The Father, about a gentleman (Anthony Hopkins) who has dementia, the man veers from charming and loquacious to quiet and sullen to bursting with red-faced anger, depending on the day, and depending, sometimes, on the hour. This is common, as the stress of forgetting life's simplicities would lead anyone to run the emotional gamut. If you feel any of these symptoms are happening to you, feel no shame; instead, simply reach out to a medical professional for a diagnostic test. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek