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This is the Dementia Symptom Most People Feel First 

Dementia is not always obvious—here’s what to look for.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Around 5.8 million Americans are living with dementia, but early diagnosis can make a significant impact on quality of life. "There's no cure for Alzheimer's," says David Wolk, MD, co-director of the Penn Memory Center. "But there are medications that can keep the symptoms from getting worse for a period of time." Here are five early symptoms of dementia people tend to experience first. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Memory Difficulties

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

Memory issues that become so common they interfere with day-to-day life (for example struggling to remember names or words, difficulty with reading) are common early signs of dementia. "For many, this stage brings noticeable changes, and it will become harder to blame age. It's common to be diagnosed in this stage, because this is when a person's daily routine becomes more disrupted," says Dr. Wolk.


Personality Changes

Stressed middle 60s aged worker woman massaging head suffering of headache in home office.

Unexplained personality changes could be a sign of dementia, doctors warn. "Most people think of Alzheimer's as primarily a memory disorder, but we do know from years of research that it also can start as a behavioral issue," says Nina Silverberg, the director of the Alzheimer's Disease Centers program at the National Institute on Aging.


Losing Interest In Hobbies

Senior woman in consultation with her female doctor or therapist

Losing interest in previously-loved hobbies and activities could be a sign of dementia—not because people no longer enjoy them, but because "they couldn't figure out how to do it anymore," says Dr. Mary Ganguli, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.


Difficulty With Communication

Tired mature woman take off glasses suffering from headache

People with dementia may have trouble following conversations, which can lead to loneliness, depression, and isolation. "People with dementia often experience difficulties communicating – for example, problems with finding the right word or following a conversation," says the Alzheimer's Society. "Other factors that may affect communication include pain, other conditions, side effects of medication and sensory impairments."



Woman comforting anxious husband

Confusion is perhaps the most common early symptom of dementia, and should never just be written off as a normal part of aging. "In this stage, damage to the brain often involves other aspects of cognition outside of memory, including some difficulty with language, organization, and calculations," says Dr. Wolk. "These problems can make it more challenging for your loved one to perform daily tasks. Because of the damage to the brain cells, your loved one may also experience other personality changes, such as feeling suspicious of others, having less interest in things, or feeling depressed. These kinds of symptoms can often be improved with medications."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan