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Signs You May Have Dementia, According to Experts

Expert reveals symptoms of dementia and what to know about the brain disorder. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Over 55 million people worldwide are living with dementia, a brain disorder that affects memory, thinking and social skills. The biggest risk factor is age–people 65-years-old and older tend to get dementia more and while there's no cure, there are several things people can do to help prevent the syndrome such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating food loaded with antioxidants, getting 150 minutes of exercise a week and brain exercises like puzzles. There's warning signs to be aware of and Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 15 years of direct patient care experience shares what they are.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Should People Know About Dementia?

Mature woman sitting upset at home.

Marchese says, "Dementia is a broad term for declining cognitive ability typically associated with older adults and certain illnesses, such as Alzheimer's. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that an estimated 5 million adults live with dementia, which is projected to increase to 14 million by 2060. People should also know that dementia is not a normal part of aging and shouldn't go untreated. Dementia is also associated with some medical disorders, such as vascular or nervous diseases."


How Can Dementia Affect Your Overall Health and Quality of Life?

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

According to Marchese, "Some memory changes associated with dementia include mild confusion or disorientation, difficulty finding the right word, misplacing keys or household items and forgetting the names of important people or the dates of important events. Dementia burdens quality of life and creates challenges for even the most mundane daily tasks. In addition to memory, dementia can affect communication skills, reasoning, judgment, attention and visual perception."


Getting Lost in a Familiar Area

older man with dementia talking to doctor
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

Marchese explains, "Becoming disoriented in a familiar store or forgetting why or how you got there is a common early sign of dementia. Older adults may suddenly forget how to navigate their local market for groceries or go out for a walk in the neighborhood and be unable to navigate their way home. Getting lost is especially dangerous for vulnerable older adults, making this sign a vital indicator to consult with a doctor."


Forgetting Old Memories


"Long-term memory is an essential aspect of cognitive ability," says Marchese. "It allows us to commit information and important events to long-term storage in a way that is not easily forgotten. Adults showing signs of dementia may have difficulty recalling key moments in their life, such as weddings, personal tragedies or critical historical events. Forgetfulness of such impactful events is not a typical sign of aging and should be taken as a sign to consult a physician about possible dementia."


Forgetting the Names of People and Objects

Woman comforting anxious husband

Marchese shares, "Sometimes it's easy for anyone to forget an acquaintance's name or the names of everyday objects. However, adults showing signs of dementia may frequently forget the names of loved ones or often have trouble finding the right words in a conversation. A common symptom of dementia is getting stuck trying to recall familiar names or words and not being successful until much later. Memory loss is not a typical sign of aging and should be noted as a potential sign of dementia when forgetfulness is frequent and impacts everyday conversations and tasks."


Difficulty with Activities of Daily Living

An old man touches his head. Headache. Alzheimer's disease

Marchese states, "Cooking, cleaning, office work and other daily activities are essential components of someone's quality of life. Dementia can make it much more challenging to complete familiar daily tasks due to forgetfulness, disorientation or an inability to focus. Cooking suddenly becomes more dangerous when you don't remember leaving the stove on, and failure to keep up with housework can make for poor living conditions. Adults with dementia often require assisted living or in-home care to help with daily tasks. If you can't keep up with your daily routine and begin to feel mentally or emotionally overwhelmed, you must talk with your doctor about screening for dementia."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather