Early Stages of Dementia in an Older Relative: 10 Signs to Watch Out For

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If you are caring for, or simply concerned for an elderly parent or relative and their health and wellbeing, then it can be useful to understand the early signs of dementia. Dementia is not an uncommon problem for seniors as they get older and can lead to various symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, mood swings, communication problems and mental health concerns. The good news is that when dementia is diagnosed as early as possible, there is a higher chance that treatments such as medication can be used to help keep this disease under control and minimize the impact that it has on the patient's life.

If you have a loved one who you suspect might be showing some signs of this disease, then a visit to the doctor for further investigation is always a good idea. Knowing what to look out for when it comes to early-stage dementia will help you make the right decisions in terms of your loved one's care.


Memory Loss

Often, memory loss might be one of the first symptoms you notice if a loved one is suffering with early stage dementia. Problems with memory loss can manifest themselves in various different ways including short-term memory loss, where your loved one might be often forgetting what they have just done, or a conversation that you have just had with them. You may notice that they are more likely to forget appointments compared to in the past or are forgetting the names of people that they have known all their lives. If your loved one has begun asking for the same information over and over or is repeating stories that they have told you previously but forgotten about, then it may be worth taking further medical action.


Trouble Completing Everyday Tasks

Having issues with completing everyday tasks that they may not have struggled at all with in the past is another sign that your loved one might be suffering from the early stages of dementia. For some people with dementia, their inability to do everyday tasks may get to a point where they will need specialist care such as that provided at this skilled nursing facility St Louis.

If you are caring for a loved one who has developed the early stages of dementia, you may notice that they are struggling to do everyday things at home such as cleaning, cooking for themselves, getting dressed, bathing themselves and more. They might forget how to do things that they have done every day for many years like locking the front door or starting their car. If you're noticing that your loved one is having problems in areas where they have never previously struggled, then it's worth speaking to a doctor about your concerns.


Communication Issues

Another common problem reported in people who are in the early stages of developing dementia is problems with language and communication. You may notice that they are more reluctant to join in on conversations compared to in the past, or that they join a conversation and then forget how to keep it going. People who are developing the early stages of dementia might have trouble remembering common words or get their words mixed up more often. They might use simple words out of context or forget the names of common objects that they see and use every day. Forgetting the names of people that they are close to and know well is another common sign that something might not be quite right.


Mood Swings

Another early sign of dementia to look out for is unexplained mood swings and changes in personality. If your relative has developed dementia and is in the early stages, you may notice that they are more depressed, confused, anxious or paranoid than usual. You may notice that they become more easily and quickly upset, especially if they are in a place that they are not sure about.

It is not uncommon for people who are developing dementia to experience paranoia, increased anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even violent mood swings, especially if these go away very quickly and it only takes minutes for them to suddenly appear visibly calm again. Rage, fear, overwhelm, and obsessing over the smaller details are further signs that somebody might be developing dementia, as they are all signs that somebody is trying to make sense of a world that is becoming more and more confusing.



Depression can often be one of the first early signs of dementia that you might notice in an elderly relative. If your loved one is developing dementia, then you may notice that they are not going out and socializing or taking part in activities that they used to enjoy as often as they use to. They may have a sense of hopelessness and be increasingly isolating themselves. Dementia causes confusion and overwhelm, which may lead your loved one to feel increasingly disconnected from the world around them. They may spend a lot more time than usual sleeping, or you might notice that they are struggling to get everyday things done like housework tasks or personal hygiene.


Financial Trouble

Another main tell-tale sign that somebody has started to develop dementia is financial problems. This is especially true if your relative is somebody who has always been good with money, but you have noticed that recently they are having a lot of financial issues. Difficulty calculating numbers is a symptom of the early stages of dementia. Because of this, your loved one might have started spending money more frivolously than usual or spending or giving their money away in a way that is not characteristic of them. They might struggle to keep track of and keep on top of their monthly bills and expenses, which may lead to problems with arrears and debt.


Poor Decision-Making and Judgement

Somebody with the early stages of dementia may experience changes in their decision-making and judgement abilities. This could be related to bigger things in life, or it might affect the basics, such as judging when they need to go to bed, tidy up, bathe themselves, go to the toilet or change their clothes. You may notice things about your relative that can be signs their judgement and decision-making skills are beginning to wane as a result of the dementia, such as wearing the same clothes for several days in a row, forgetting to brush their teeth, brush their hair or shave, forgetting to shower or bathe, or forgetting to tidy up and clean around their home.


Confusion in Familiar Surroundings

Another early sign of dementia to look out for is a person becoming confused easily in surroundings that they should be familiar with. When visiting somewhere that they go a lot, your relative might act confused that they are there at all, forget where the place is, or be confused as to how they got there. Somebody with dementia may also become even more easily confused due to losing track of time, dates, and seasons.

Dementia alters the brain where is will only be able to focus on the present moment, which may lead to signs of confusion in your relative about events that are not happening immediately. They may not be able to remember familiar places unless they are there at the time, or struggle to recall people who are not with them in the moment.


Visual Problems

Early onset dementia can also cause visual problems, such as difficulty reading, struggling to determine colors, poor distance judgement and a lack of spatial awareness. You may find that a relative who used to love to read spends less time reading these days, or they can't see what's on the TV when they are watching it. They might struggle with everyday things such as being able to do up buttons and zippers on clothing or eating with a knife and fork.


Things Being Put in Wrong Places

While we're all guilty of putting something back in the wrong place from time to time, this can happen on a much more serious level with early onset dementia. People who are in the early stages of dementia might put things back in the strangest of places only to forget that they put it there and get very upset believing that they have lost the item or that it has been stolen from them.

If your loved one has been losing a lot of things recently only for them to turn up somewhere you would never have imagined them to put it, then this is a concerning sign. If you've found things like the TV remote in the washing machine or toothbrushes in the dining room, then this could be a sure sign of early onset dementia that is not to be ignored, and your relative will benefit from seeing a doctor as soon as possible.

Whether you care for a parent or another older relative, understanding the early signs of dementia and how to spot them will help you ensure that your relative gets the best treatment and care as early as possible. 

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