Dementia affects millions of Americans each year. In 2020, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) estimated that more than 7 million people in the U.S. suffered from the debilitating disease. As the baby boomer generation ages, the number will continue to grow; the PRB estimates that 9 million Americans may have dementia by 2030 and almost 20 million by 2040.
Signs of dementia are wide-ranging and can be difficult to notice in the early stages. It’s important to know what they are so you can detect them and get a diagnosis as soon as possible. This will help you determine if it’s time for your senior loved one to enter assisted living or seek senior transitional care.
Here are 10 of the most common warning signs of dementia.
1. Trouble Finding Words
A common early sign of dementia is difficulty finding words and other subtle changes in language and communication. Is your senior loved one forgetting words or using incorrect ones? Are they losing track mid-sentence? It’s normal to be a little forgetful every once in a while, but regular occurrences of being tongue-tied and substituting incorrect words is an early warning sign to stay on top of.
2. Repeating Themselves
Repetition of ideas, thoughts, and statements is another sign of memory decline that can be associated with dementia. Pay attention when a senior loved one shares a story often or gives you the same compliment repeatedly.
3. Misplacing Things
A person with dementia symptoms may put things in inappropriate places, forget where they are, or lose items altogether.
4. Losing Track of Time
If your senior loved one is losing track of time, such as what day or week it is, or if they can’t remember holidays and birthdays, this can be a sign for alarm. Try to keep track of what they’re forgetting and how often.
5. Forgetting Commitments
Recurring memory loss is another common sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Keep a close eye on your loved one if they are forgetting plans, medical appointments, and other obligations. If it happens often, keep a log of when it’s occurring and what they’re forgetting.
6. Difficulty With Familiar Tasks
It’s easy to get distracted, but if it happens all the time and your senior loved one can’t complete familiar tasks, it may be time for an evaluation with a physician. Forgetting to complete simple routines, like getting the mail, walking a pet, or preparing meals can be another early sign of dementia.
7. Loss of Interest
If your senior loved one loses interest in some of their favorite activities, social interactions or hobbies, this can be indicative of a more serious issue. Have they stopped playing bridge or bingo with their friends? Did they stop gardening, knitting or reading altogether? Keep an eye out for unusual behavior like this.
Another early sign of dementia are mood swings coupled with confusion, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Take notice if your senior loved one gets easily upset and irrational or if they panic in new or different situations.
A physical symptom that signifies cognitive decline and the need for memory care is when your senior leaves the house unexpectedly, walks around aimlessly or gets lost in familiar places. This is called “dementia wandering” and can be dangerous if they can’t find their way home or walk too far.
10. Sleep Issues
People with memory loss often suffer from insomnia and Sundowner’s syndrome, which describes when a senior is triggered by exhaustion or excitement at the end of the day. Sundowner’s syndrome causes difficulty staying asleep, as well as anxiety, agitation, disorientation, pacing, and hallucinations. Sleep is critical to the health of seniors, so watch carefully for these issues.
These are just a few of the common warning signs of dementia. If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, document these behaviors and seek support from medical professionals. Whether it’s time for your senior loved one to enter assisted living or seek senior transitional care, it’s important to find professional help as soon as possible.