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Dementia symptoms

2-minute read

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 is memory loss. It is the most common symptom that people talk to their doctor about. 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: October 2018

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