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Subtle Signs You May Have Dementia, According to Science

Watch these warning signs.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Watch out for signs you or someone you love has dementia—they can creep up on you. What may seem like regular old age at first—who hasn't forgotten where they misplaced their phone—can snowball quickly into the signals of a brain in trouble. Read on for 6 key signifiers that someone you love has dementia, according to science—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


They Might Have Short-Term Memory Problems

Pensioner reading message on mobile phone

Dementia damages part of the brain tasked with storing memories. With dementia, the memory problems will become more persistent. Signs someone you love has dementia can include them not being able to create new memories ("I didn't go to the beach with you yesterday, what are you talking about?"), taking longer to retrieve information ("Pass me the….um….pass me the…the….the…stapler") or not being able to retrieve information at all ("That's my grandson? He's beautiful…what's his name?")

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They Might Have Trouble With Complex Tasks

Senior aged woman baking in home kitchen.

Dementia makes things one does everyday more difficult. They will need reminders about the process of things you'd think anyone would know, like, for example, when and how to take their medication, how to follow a recipe with multiple instructions and ingredients, or how to maintain good hygiene.

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They Might Get Lost

Mature woman on bench in autumn park.

Those who have dementia can get lost on their way back from somewhere—or wander off with no ability to return home. Every day in the news, someone with dementia strays away from where they belong, unable to find their way back; some states even have a "Silver Alert" for such cases, in which they put out a description so the person can be found.

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They Might Do This While Driving

Female neighbor giving senior woman a lift In car.

Doctors may be able to test older people for early signs of dementia based on their driving patterns, a new study suggests. The researchers, from the long-term study LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers), found that age was the number one risk factor for MCI or dementia, but a number of driving patterns were close behind. They included the percentage of trips traveled within 15 miles of home, the length of trips that started at home, minutes per trip, and the number of hard braking events with fast deceleration rates. Driving behavior alone could predict MCI or dementia with 66 percent accuracy.

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They Might Forget to Pay Bills

or woman with papers or bills and calculator writing at home

Spending money on purchases you don't remember is one early sign of dementia, but so is not spending money—as in, completely forgetting about your monthly bills. These routine tent poles every week serve as markers those with total cognitive function should be able to remember. What's worse, as the disease progresses, sufferers may hide their financial failings in order to maintain their independence.

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They Might Have Personality Changes

Elderly couple arguing.

Anger, embarrassment, anxiety and depression are not uncommon among those with dementia. This can be partly because they are naturally frustrated with their situation, but also partly because their brain is losing cells, potentially in the frontal lobe, the area that controls aspects of our personality. The result can be decreased motivation, more passivity or a lack of impulse control, which can lead to rude outbursts. 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