Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia Vector

Top 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia (2024)

by | Jul 6, 2024

Dementia is a term used to describe a decline in cognitive function that interferes with daily life. It is not a single disease but rather a collection of symptoms that can result from various conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia.

Identifying the early signs of dementia is crucial for timely intervention, treatment, and support.

Early diagnosis allows individuals to plan for the future, access necessary resources, and potentially slow the progression of symptoms.

This article explores the key early warning signs of dementia to help you recognize them in yourself or your loved ones.

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What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. It encompasses a range of symptoms associated with impaired memory, thinking, and reasoning. Unlike normal age-related cognitive decline, dementia is marked by persistent and progressive deterioration in mental abilities.

Woman with dementia vector illustration

Early Signs of Dementia

  1. Memory loss
  2. Postural changes
  3. Sensory changes
  4. Muscle strength problems
  5. Sleep problems
  6. Apathy
  7. Difficulty finding words
  8. Confusion with time or place
  9. Decreased or poor judgment
  10. Changes in mood and personality

Watch this video or keep reading to learn more about the early signs and symptoms of dementia that you should never ignore.

Memory Loss

One of the most common early signs of dementia is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. It may manifest as frequently misplacing items, forgetting important dates or events, or repeatedly asking for the same information.

This goes beyond typical age-related forgetfulness and begins to interfere with daily life, causing frustration for both the individual and their loved ones.

Postural Changes

Dementia can cause noticeable changes in posture and gait. Individuals may develop a hunched or stooped posture, and their walking pattern may become slower and more shuffling.

These changes are often due to the brain’s impaired ability to control movement and balance, making it difficult to navigate through daily activities without assistance. This symptom can increase the risk of falls and injuries, highlighting the importance of early intervention and support.

Sensory Changes

Sensory changes are another early warning sign of dementia. These can include a decline in the sense of smell or taste, making it difficult to enjoy food or recognize familiar scents.

Individuals may also experience changes in vision or hearing, such as difficulty judging distances or distinguishing colors. These sensory impairments can affect daily activities, such as driving, cooking, or recognizing faces, and contribute to a feeling of disorientation.

Muscle Strength Problems

Dementia can also impact muscle strength and coordination. Individuals may notice a gradual weakening of their muscles, making it harder to perform tasks that require physical effort.

This can include difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt or using utensils, as well as challenges with larger movements, like standing up from a chair or walking. These changes can lead to a greater reliance on support from others and a decline in overall independence.

Sleep Problems

Sleep disturbances are common in the early stages of dementia. Individuals may experience difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings during the night, or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Changes in the sleep-wake cycle, such as staying awake at night and sleeping during the day, are also prevalent.

These sleep issues can exacerbate other dementia symptoms, such as confusion and mood changes, and can significantly impact the quality of life for both the affected individual and their caregivers.


Apathy, or a lack of interest and motivation, is another early sign of dementia. People may become less engaged in activities they once enjoyed, show little interest in social interactions, and exhibit a general sense of indifference.

This withdrawal from hobbies, work, and social gatherings can be mistaken for depression, but in the context of dementia, it is a distinct symptom. Apathy can lead to social isolation and further cognitive decline, making it crucial to address and manage this symptom early on.

Difficulty Finding Words

One of the early signs of dementia is difficulty finding the right words during conversations. Individuals may struggle to name familiar objects or express their thoughts coherently. They might pause frequently, use vague terms, or substitute words incorrectly.

This can lead to frustration and misunderstandings in social interactions, as well as a noticeable decline in communication skills, impacting both personal and professional relationships.

Confusion with Time or Place

Confusion with time or place is another hallmark of early dementia. Individuals may lose track of dates, seasons, or the passage of time. They might forget where they are or how they got there, becoming disoriented even in familiar environments.

This confusion can extend to difficulty understanding future events or the sequence of tasks, leading to increased dependence on others for navigation and daily planning.

Decreased or Poor Judgment

Decreased or poor judgment is a common early sign of dementia. Individuals may make decisions that seem out of character or imprudent, such as giving away large sums of money to telemarketers or neglecting personal hygiene and safety.

They might struggle to assess risks and benefits appropriately, leading to potentially dangerous situations. This decline in judgment can affect their ability to manage finances, healthcare, and other important aspects of daily life.

Changes in Mood and Personality

Changes in mood and personality are often noticeable in the early stages of dementia. Individuals may experience sudden mood swings, becoming anxious, depressed, or irritable without obvious cause. They might exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors, such as becoming overly suspicious, withdrawn, or disinterested in social activities.

These changes can be challenging for family and friends to understand and manage, as the individual’s personality may seem to shift dramatically from their usual self.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing the early signs of dementia can make a significant difference in the lives of those affected. While experiencing one or two symptoms does not necessarily mean someone has dementia, it is important to consult a healthcare professional if these symptoms persist or worsen.

Early detection can lead to better management of the condition, improved quality of life, and more effective planning for the future.

By understanding and being vigilant about these early warning signs, we can ensure that individuals receive the care and support they need at the right time.

John Landry, BS, RRT

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others live a healthier life.