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No matter what your age, be on the lookout for these early dementia symptoms.

Dementia is a condition characterized by cognitive decline and problems with memory, reasoning, problem-solving, language and communication abilities. It mainly affects people over the age of 65 but can be diagnosed in younger people, even in their 50s, 40s and 30s. Recent reports of celebrities diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia, including talk show host Wendy Williams and actor Bruce Willis, have been a sobering reminder that dementia can affect you earlier than you think.

Knowing the signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia) makes it more likely you can spot the condition early. Although not curable, early treatment may help slow progression of the disease.

Here are some common early signs of dementia:

  1. Changes in short-term memory – A person with dementia may have trouble remembering things that recently happened, even if they can easily remember things from the past. This may include forgetting what they were supposed to do, where they put objects, why they entered a room or how to complete tasks. Changes in memory may be subtle. Keep in mind that it is normal for memory to diminish with age and memory changes alone don’t mean you have dementia.
  2. Communication difficulties – It can be difficult for someone with dementia to express their thoughts and feelings. They may not be able to find the right words, may stop in the middle of a sentence and not know how to continue or may find it hard to express what they want to say.
  3. Inability to complete tasks or learn new things – Another sign of dementia is that a person may have difficulty completing tasks they used to be able to do, like paying bills, playing a game or following a recipe. They may also have a hard time learning new things and may become agitated if they have to follow new routines.
  4. Finding it hard to follow along – It can be difficult for someone with dementia to follow what’s going on in a conversation or what they hear or see on television. It can also be hard to follow directions or step-by-step instructions.
  5. Being repetitive – The person may often repeat themselves. They may ask the same question over and over, tell the same story repeatedly or do a task even if it’s already been done, like brushing their teeth. They may also obsessively collect items.
  6. Fear of trying new things – People with dementia crave routine and prefer to avoid new situations. They have difficulty adapting to change and do best when things remain the same.
  7. Loss of interest – A common early sign of dementia is losing interest in doing things the person used to enjoy. They may not want to go out or be around people and may seem emotionally flat.
  8. Lack of judgment – A person with dementia may start to lose their ability to make good decisions. This can cause them to do things that are dangerous, such as walking across the street without looking for oncoming traffic.
  9. Mood changes – It’s not uncommon for a person with dementia to feel depressed, anxious, stressed or fearful. There may also be other personality changes as the condition progresses.

If you suspect that you or someone you love has early signs of dementia, see a doctor. Although the condition can’t be cured, early treatment is your best defense against worsening cognitive decline.

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Date Last Reviewed: April 18, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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