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Dementia symptoms

A person with dementia may, at first, not even notice a problem. Everybody forgets things from time to time, and everybody finds it hard to find the right word for familiar things, especially as they get older.

Early warning signs - expert advice

An early warning sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. It is the most common presenting symptom. It is important to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in everyday functions due to memory loss in yourself or someone else. Watch the video below to learn more about the early warning signs of dementia.


Read the related video transcript

Early symptoms

People with dementia may start to:

  • be vague in their everyday conversations
  • lose enthusiasm for things they usually enjoy
  • take longer than before to do routine things
  • forget people or places they used to know
  • find it hard to follow instructions
  • become more unpredictable emotionally.

People can sometimes wrongly assume these signs and symptoms are a normal part of ageing. They’re not.

Other symptoms of dementia may include:

  • problems with language, such as forgetting simple words
  • losing track of time and place, so they may forget whether it’s morning or afternoon, or may become lost in their own street
  • showing poor judgement, so they may find it hard to drive a car or they may buy things they don’t need
  • problems with abstract thinking, so they may not know what the numbers on their bank statement mean
  • losing or misplacing things regularly
  • changes in mood or behaviour, so they may swing from calm to crying to anger for no apparent reason
  • changes in personality, such as becoming fearful or disinhibited
  • loss of initiative, so they become passive.

These same symptoms can have a cause other than dementia, especially if they come on quickly. The onset of dementia is usually gradual, so seek expert advice from a doctor if these symptoms occur more rapidly.

Over a period of months or years, most people with dementia gradually:

  • lose their memory – at first for recent events, and later for events further back in their lives
  • have a personality change
  • lose interest in life
  • withdraw from their usual activities
  • lose their ability to care for themselves and for others around them.

Dementia and personality changes - expert advice

The symptoms of dementia will get progressively worse and will affect a person's ability to do everyday tasks. The inability to complete tasks can lead to frustration and affect their mood and behaviour. Watch the video and learn about the symptoms of dementia and how they can impact everyday life.


Read the related video transcript

Last reviewed: November 2016

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Behaviour Management

Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are common. While residents dying at the end stages of dementia, may not exhibit behaviours that threaten or interfere with others, not all those iving with dementia die of the effects of dementia. Many have other illnesses which are life limiting at an earlier stage of dementia, when behavioural symptoms are more frequent.

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Dementia: behavioural and psychological symptoms - myDr.com.au

Along with loss of memory and intellectual function, dementia can cause symptoms such as changes in behaviour and mood.

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Alzheimer's Australia | Drugs used to relieve behavioural & psychological symptoms of dementia

Avoid drugs unless they are really necessary Before any of the drugs mentioned on this page are prescribed it is essential to ensure that the person with dementia is physically healthy, comfortable and well cared for. Whenever possible, the person should be helped to lead an active life, with interesting and stimulating daily activities. Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia can often result from unreported pain, other illnesses, drug interactions and environmental factors.

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Depression and Dementia

Dementia and depression can occur separately or together. Sometimes it may be difficult to distinguish between them because the signs and symptoms are similar.

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Dementia - Factsheets

Dementia is a name given to a group of symptoms which result from failing brain functions. The major signs are memory loss, confusion, disorientation and lessening of intellectual functioning.

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Alzheimer's Australia | Types of dementia

Dementia is the umbrella term for a number of neurological conditions, of which the major symptom includes a global decline in brain function. It is a condition that has been noted in people for hundreds of years. Dementia was a relatively rare occurrence before the 20th century as fewer people lived to old age in pre-industrial society. It was not until the mid 1970s that dementia begun to be described as we know it today. We now know dementia is a disease symptom, and not a normal part of aging.

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Alzheimer's Australia | What is younger onset dementia?

What is younger onset dementia? Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a persons mental functioning. It is a broad term which describes symptoms such as loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and normal emotional reactions. The term younger onset dementia is usually used to describe any form of dementia diagnosed in people under the age of 65.

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Alzheimer's Australia | About dementia

Information The information in this section defines dementia, describes the symptoms and causes of dementia and explains the difference between normal memory problems and dementia. What is dementia? What is younger onset dementia?

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Alzheimer's Australia | What is dementia?

Information The information in this section defines dementia, describes the symptoms and causes of dementia and explains the difference between normal memory problems and dementia. What is dementia? Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the persons normal social or working life.

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