10 Signs of Dementia You May Be Overlooking

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Forgetting things or getting lost—most people know at least one common sign of Alzheimer disease. “Dementia,” however, is an umbrella term for a group of neurological conditions where the brain faces accelerated aging. While Alzheimer disease is the most common form, there are many different types of dementia. Recognizing the warning signs for dementia may help you promptly get the care you need.

Some of the lesser-known dementia symptoms include:

Person embraces older man.
  1. Financial problems – Difficulties with paying bills, handling cash, or managing a bank account.
  2. Losing track of time – Confusion about today’s date. Losing track of whether it is day or night. Attempting to get out of bed and run errands or visit the doctor’s office in the middle of the night.
  3. Slips in self-care – Personal hygiene habits might fall by the wayside. For example, someone who showered regularly appears to go without a shower for days-to-weeks. You may also notice lapses in caring for a pet.
  4. Problems with doing tasks that they previously did with ease – The person may have baked a cake or operated their TV remote efficiently. But now they cannot seem to recall the recipe. Or, perhaps they know the recipe but are struggling to get organized and sequence the steps.
  5. Slowed information processing – Everyday tasks that used to be easy now take much longer and are effortful.
  6. Being accident-prone – Changes in balance and motor skills can lead to more frequent falls, close calls with tripping, and clumsiness when handling objects with their hands (drops and spills). 
  7. Shifts in sleep patterns – Some people with dementia sleep more during the day and find themselves restless at night. Others may struggle to sleep much at all.
  8. Vision issues – Some dementias can cause problems with processing visual information. This can make it seem like the person has poor eyesight: e.g., trouble reading, inability to distinguish colors, struggling to put away dishes or cutlery.
  9. Mood swings – Anyone can get irritable when things don’t go their way. But, if you see your loved one behave in a way they have never behaved beforethis is a red flag. For instance, they may become physically (e.g., grabbing someone’s hand, slamming doors or objects) or verbally (e.g., shouting at family, making mean-spirited comments) aggressive.
  10. Personality changes – Someone who has always been a go-getter now hesitates to take initiative. Saying offensive things to others, whereas previously the individual was very polite. The person is easily irked or has angry outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation when they used to be relatively calm.

Next steps

Having any of these warning signs does not necessarily mean a person has dementia. There could be other causes, such as a vitamin deficiency or metabolic imbalance (e.g., abnormal blood sugar levels, kidney function, etc.). Many of these other conditions are reversible with the right medical care. Never wait to seek care. Bring your concerns to your primary care provider so they can help you develop a plan for further evaluation.

If you spot dementia symptoms in yourself or a loved one, always talk with your healthcare provider. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the more likely it is that you and your family can learn how to manage symptoms and plan for the future. At the Eastside Neuroscience Institute, a strategic joint venture between Overlake Medical Center and EvergreenHealth, your neurologist can determine if a neuropsychological assessment is required to identify if your symptoms are a part of normal aging versus a more serious neurological condition, such as dementia.

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