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Signs You May Have Dementia, According to the Experts

Five dementia symptoms to be aware of and why. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dementia is a serious brain disorder that affects millions and is becoming increasingly common. While the #1 risk factor is age–it's more prevalent in people over 65-years-old, risk factors you can change include poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. There's several signs of dementia to be aware of and Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us the five most common symptoms to pay attention to and why. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Dementia

Portrait of worried senior man sitting on sofa in living room

Dr. Mitchell says, "Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability due to disease or injury. This can include problems with memory, judgment, language, and other thinking skills. Dementia is usually diagnosed in people over 65, but it can also occur in younger people. There are many different causes of dementia, but the most common is Alzheimer's disease. Dementia can be challenging to deal with, both for the person who has the condition and for their caregivers. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the signs of dementia to get the help and support you need. Early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression of the disease and help to improve the quality of life. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have dementia, please speak to your doctor. Dementia is a condition that affects cognitive function and can interfere with daily living. Memory loss is the most well-known symptom of dementia, but there are other signs. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be experiencing dementia, look for these five signs."


Difficulty With Communication

Comforting Senior Husband Suffering With Dementia

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Difficulty with communication is a sign of dementia. This can include trouble understanding conversation, repeating oneself, or using the wrong words. There are many possible causes of difficulty with communication in dementia, including damage to the brain's language centers, difficulty processing information, and impaired short-term memory. In addition, some forms of dementia can cause changes in mood or behavior that make it difficult to communicate effectively. However, no matter the cause, communication difficulty can be a frustrating and isolating experience for both the person with dementia and their loved ones. If you notice signs of communication difficulties in yourself or someone you care about, it is essential to seek professional help. A trained clinician can evaluate the severity of the problem and recommend treatment options that can improve quality of life."


Issues With Planning and Executive Function

Senior woman conducting an interview

"One of the most common early signs of dementia is difficulty with planning and executive function," Dr. Mitchell states. "This refers to the ability to organize and carry out complex tasks, evidenced by problems with time management, decision making, and multi-tasking. For instance, a person with dementia may have difficulty following a recipe, keeping track of appointments, or paying bills. While everyone experiences occasional lapses in memory or concentration, these difficulties become more pronounced in the early stages of dementia. In some cases, planning and executive function problems may be due to changes in the brain's frontal lobe – the area responsible for motor control and higher-level cognitive functions. Dementia can also lead to changes in neurotransmitter levels, which can impact attention span and short-term memory."


Changes in Mood and Behavior

Elderly couple arguing.

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Dementia is a degenerative brain disorder that can cause a decline in cognitive function, changes in mood and behavior, and a loss of independence. While the exact cause of dementia is unknown, it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Changes in mood and behavior are common symptoms of dementia, and they can be both frustrating and distressing for the person with dementia and their caregivers. Common behavioral changes include aggression, apathy, depression, anxiety, irritability, disinhibition, and delusions. These changes can be caused by a decline in cognitive function, as well as by changes in the chemical structure of the brain. In some cases, behavioral changes may also indicate underlying medical conditions such as pain or infection. Therefore, it is important to consult with a doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any changes in mood or behavior that are out of character or are affecting daily life."


Poor Judgment and Decision-Making

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

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Poor judgment and decision-making can be early signs of dementia. Many people with dementia have trouble understanding and processing information, which can lead to difficulty making sound decisions. In addition, changes in mood and behavior can impact judgment and impair executive functioning skills such as planning and problem-solving. As dementia progresses, poor judgment and decision-making can become more pronounced, leading to significant impairment in daily life. While there is no one answer to why dementia causes poor judgment, it is clear that the condition can significantly impact cognitive abilities."


Changes in Spatial Awareness


Dr. Mitchell explains, "Changes in spatial awareness is a common symptom of dementia. While the exact cause of this symptom is not yet known, it is believed to be related to changes in the brain resulting from the disease. One theory is that dementia affects the ability of the brain to process information about distance and location. This can lead to difficulties judging how far away objects are or conflicting information about the location of things. As a result, people with dementia may have trouble navigating their environment and often become lost. Changes in spatial awareness can also cause problems with balance and coordination; making falls more likely. While there is no cure for dementia, treatments can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease." Dr. Mitchell adds, "If you notice any of these signs, you must see a doctor for a diagnosis. While there is no cure for dementia, early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the disease's progression and improve quality of life."

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