Ten Dementia Warning Signs

Written by Nicole Scheidl

April 24, 2018

How do I tell if my mom or dad has dementia?

What are some of the warning signs?

In this post I want to tell you about 10 warning signs that may indicate dementia is present. If you recognize them in your mom or dad, a trip to the doctor is warranted.

Memory loss

As dementia progresses, memory impairments, especially forgetting recently learned information are common. You will notice an impact on the individual’s ability to go about daily life. So while forgetting where your keys are isn’t a symptom of memory loss, forgetting you had lunch an hour ago is. If your mom or dad is having difficulty remembering concrete experiences like having lunch, or a visit from a grandchild, make an appointment with their family physician.


Difficulty performing familiar tasks

People with dementia often have difficulty completing daily tasks. Has your mom or dad forgotten how to do something they’ve known how to do for years? For example, things like forgetting how to bake a pie, rules for a favourite card game or directions to a familiar location. If those tasks are too difficult to complete, your mom or dad should have an assessment.


Problems with language

Individuals with dementia may have trouble following or joining a conversation or finding familiar words. They may repeat themselves. For example, instead of saying TV remote, they instead say, “that thing you change channels with”. Pay attention to the interactions you have with your mom or dad. Do their language skills seem ‘rusty’?


Disorientation to time and place

Dementia sufferers can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. If your mom or dad is getting lost in their own neighbourhood or forgetting what month it is, you should make an appointment with your family doctor.


Poor or decreased judgement

Dementia may cause changes in judgement or decision-making. Your mom or dad may get mixed up with the seasons and dress in a parka to go outdoors in the summer. They may express inappropriate sentiments, giving large amounts of money to strangers or paying less attention to personal grooming. If your mom or dad stops showering regularly and doesn’t change their clothing, red flags should go up.


Problems with abstract thinking

Abstract thinking is the ability to think about objects, principles and ideas that are not physically present. Examples include having problems balancing a cheque book, failing to understand common metaphors and analogies or being unable to follow a recipe. If your mom or dad no longer gets a joke or follows a story, this can be an early warning sign.


Misplacing things

While most of us misplace things from time to time, it is cause for concern if they put things in unusual places. So if you are finding those keys in the freezer or sugar bowl, you should be concerned.


Changes in mood or behaviour 

Is your mom or dad exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviours, such as being more agitated, suspicious, anxious, depressed, fearful, or aggressive? Unusual emotions or strong reactions to events that are unusual for them can be a sign of dementia.


Changes in personality

Have you noticed a change in their personality? For example, a normally outgoing individual may start to withdraw socially. When an individual feels unsure of their cognitive abilities, it is a natural reaction for them to withdraw. For example, your dad’s ability to cope and worry about embarrassing himself can change the way he interacts with others.


Loss of initiative

As the dementia progresses it can erode a person’s confidence. This erosion can cause them to  remove themselves from favourite pastimes, such as hobbies, social activities, or sports. Remember, the behavioural and psychological symptoms you’re witnessing usually occur in response to an internal or external stress of an unmet need. That stress can be caused by pain, incontinence, thirst, hunger, or frustration. If you’ve noticed any of these warning signs, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor.


Finally, I recommend you sign up for our weekly email. This weekly email will provide you with information and strategies to support your mom or dad in this journey.

You can sign up here: Family Support Weekly Email

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