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What Are Early Warning Signs of Dementia?

You might be familiar with the advanced symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia – but detecting it early can be the key to maximizing your loved one’s quality of life. Whether you’re actively searching for care or simply curious about warning signs in yourself or a loved one, we’re here to help. Read on to learn all about the common early warning signs of dementia.

How Dementia Affects Judgement

In the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, loose proteins collect, break down and clump together, blocking neural pathways and damaging tissues. This can lead to a number of behavioral changes – notably, a reduced capacity for judgment and decision-making. Per the Alzheimer’s Association, two common examples of this reduced capacity are mistakes made when handling money and new problems with personal hygiene.

Is poor judgment or indecision a sign of dementia? Not necessarily. Making a mistake from time to time – like forgetting to change the oil in your car – is a normal side effect of getting older. But if you notice a major change in risk assessment or an increased difficulty in making everyday decisions – like what to wear, where to go and when, etc. – you may have real cause for concern.

Is it Forgetfulness or Something More?

It can be tough to disentangle normal age-related changes in memory from those caused by Alzheimer’s disease. What’s the key difference? In the early stages of dementia, short-term memory is often hit hardest. Is your loved one regularly forgetting things they’ve just been told – and not remembering them later? Occasionally forgetting things like appointments or names is normal but be mindful if it becomes more frequent.

Difficulty completing everyday tasks – like driving to a place they visit often, making a grocery list or remembering the rules to a favorite card game – is another thing to watch out for. But bear in mind that this is only for activities they’ve done regularly for months or years. Needing help to work a new computer, find an unfamiliar address or set up a TV doesn’t count.

Other Signs to Watch For

  • Problems with planning and problem solving. A senior living with dementia might have new difficulty with developing and following a plan. Take note if your loved one struggles with concentration when cooking a familiar recipe or keeping up with monthly bills.
  • Being confused about time or place. Memory-impaired people can lose track of the passage of time, forgetting which month, season or even year they’re currently in. They may have trouble placing events firmly within the past or the future – and in more advanced stages, they may even seem to “regress” to the behavior of their teens or twenties.
  • Trouble with spatial reasoning. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia don’t just affect memory and judgment – they can make it hard to interpret visual information. This can lead to difficulty with walking, balance and driving.
  • Issues with speaking or writing. Individuals with dementia may find it difficult to enter and follow a conversation. Struggling with vocabulary, reading and writing are also common.
  • Social withdrawal. Personality changes and new difficulties with communication can make those living with dementia pull away from hobbies, work or other activities.

How Hillsboro Can Help

You’re bound to have more questions as you search for the right care for your loved one. That’s where we can help. We proudly provide secure dementia management services for seniors of all ages and ability. And our team of compassionate care professionals are always ready to lend a helping hand.