How to Spot Dementia - Signs and Symptoms to Notice

Whether you’re concerned for yourself or someone you care about, it’s important to know the warning signs of dementia so you can ensure an early diagnosis. Here are some of the most common warning signs for dementia.


Dementia and memory loss

It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments and remember them later. A person with dementia may forget things more often or not remember them at all.


Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting how to do a typical routine or task, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed?

Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may forget to serve part of a meal, only to remember about it later. However, a person living with dementia may have trouble completing tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal or playing a game.


Difficulties in thinking things through and planning

A person may get confused more easily and find it harder to plan, make complex decisions (for example, about finances) or solve problems.


Changes in mood

A change in mood is also common with dementia. If you have dementia, it may not be easy to recognize this in yourself, but you may notice this change in someone else. Depression, for instance, is common in the early stages of dementia.

Someone who has dementia may also seem more fearful or anxious than they were before. They could get easily upset if their usual daily routine is changed, or if they find themselves in unfamiliar situations.

Along with mood changes, you might also notice a shift in personality. One typical type of personality change seen with dementia is a shift from being shy or quiet to being outgoing.



Apathy, or listlessness, is a common sign in early dementia. A person with dementia may lose interest in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy doing. They may not want to go out anymore or have fun.

They may also lose interest in spending time with friends and family, and they may seem emotionally flat.


Impaired judgement

Are you, or the person you know, not recognizing something that can put health and safety at risk?

From time to time, people may make questionable decisions such as putting off seeing a doctor when they are not feeling well. However, a person living with dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision-making, such as not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.


Dementia and language problems

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with dementia may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making sentences difficult to understand. They may also have trouble understanding others.


Problems remembering commitments

Reoccurring memory loss is an early sign of dementia. Everyone forgets something occasionally, but if it happens regularly, be sure to document when and how often.

For example, take note if your parents regularly forget:

Dentist or doctor’s appointments

Dinner plans with friends or family

Maintenance appointments for the car

Who are you researching for?

How quickly do you need to find an option?


Losing track of time

If your elderly parent continues to forget the day, month, year, holidays, or other important dates, this is a red flag. Write down what they forget and how often the lapses occur.


Misplacing things

Are you, or the person you know, putting things in places where they shouldn’t be?

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. However, a person living with dementia may put things in inappropriate places. For example, an iron in the freezer, or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.


Things to remember

The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious.

Although the early signs of dementia vary, there are some common early symptoms.

If the person affected has several of the ten warning signs of dementia, consult a doctor for a complete assessment.

Your doctor may use six broad types of medical assessment to help to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of dementia.

Some people might resist going to the doctor for a medical assessment but there several strategies that can help to make this process easier.