11 Early Signs of Dementia


Frequently falling, mismanaging your money, or staring into space? Find out if you should be concerned about Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Dementia does more than rob people of their memory — research continues to show that this complicated condition is marked by a number of symptoms, especially at the onset. But they’re not always easy to recognize: From frequent falling to failing to recognize sarcasm, some of dementia’s early warning signs are subtle.

How can you know if you or a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s diseaseor another form of dementia? Any change that is different from a person’s usual behavior or abilities could be a cause for concern, explains neuropsychologist Katherine Rankin, PhD, who conducts research at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center in San Francisco. Take a look at some of the earliest signs of dementia — you may be surprised.

Frequent Falling

Constantly tripping over your own two feet? Everyone falls now and again — but frequent falling could be an early signal of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research. The researchers, who presented the study at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris, looked at brain scans of 125 older adults and also asked them to keep track of how often they slipped and stumbled during an eight-month span. The results? Those participants who showed early signs of Alzheimer’s also happened to fall down more often. “People will come into our office concerned because they forgot what was on their grocery list last week, but when their spouse says they’ve fallen four times in the past year, that’s a sign of a problem,” says Rankin. People with this movement disorder, known as progressive supranuclear palsy, might not catch themselves on the way down either, making this dementia symptom even more dangerous.

Missing Sarcasm

You may or may not appreciate sarcastic senses of humor, but sarcasm is a part of our culture. “We see it as a nice way to be critical and so we use it constantly, even when we are trying to be nice,” says Rankin, who recently reported study results at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology showing that people with both frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and Alzheimer’s disease tend to have a harder time picking up on sarcasm. Another unusual sign of dementia Rankin noticed? People with FTD couldn’t tell when someone was lying, although people with Alzheimer’s disease could tell. “FTD patients don’t have that sense anymore that things that people do could turn out badly,” she says.

A Disregard for the Law

Some younger people in the beginning stages of early-onset dementia lose their sense of social norms. Shoplifting, breaking into someone’s house, and inappropriate interpersonal behaviors, such as sexual comments or actions, all make the list of surprising dementia symptoms — and they can lead to legal trouble, too. Early-onset dementia can hit people as early as their thirties and forties, well before anyone around them would consider their out-of-character, law-breaking behaviors as signs of dementia.

Staring

“Reduced gaze” is the clinical term for the dementia symptom that alters people’s ability to move their eyes normally. “We all move our eyes and track with them frequently,” says Rankin. But people showing early signs of dementia look like they’re staring a lot. Rankin adds that, “they try to read and they skip lines.” This is one of the signs of dementia that the patient might not completely be aware of, although people around them probably will be.

Eating Objects

One surprising early sign of dementia is eating nonfood objects or foods that are rancid or spoiled. This is partly because the person forgets what to do with the things in front of them. For example, dementia patients might try to eat the flower in a vase on a restaurant table because they “know they are there to eat, but don’t know what the flower is doing there,” says Rankin. Unlike some other Alzheimer’s symptomsor dementia symptoms, this one has few other likely explanations.

Losing Knowledge

Now and again, most people find themselves desperately searching for the right word. In fact, failing to find the word you are thinking of is surprisingly common and not necessarily a sign of dementia, says Rankin. But losing knowledge of objects — not just what they are called, but also what they are used for — is an early dementia symptom. Oddly enough, people who are losing this knowledge can be very competent in other areas of their lives.

Losing Empathy

If someone who is usually sweet, considerate, and polite starts to say insulting or inappropriate things — and shows no awareness of their inappropriateness or concern or regret about what they’ve said — they could be exhibiting an early sign of dementia. In the early stages of some types of dementia, symptoms can include losing the ability to read social cues and, therefore, the ability to understand why it’s not acceptable to say hurtful things.

Ignoring Embarrassment

Being unable to recognize how others feel about a situation isn’t the only social cue dementia patientsmiss — people with dementia symptoms may also lose the ability to understand embarrassment. This is a multi-faceted sign of dementia: They themselves don’t feel embarrassed by the situations they find themselves in and they also don’t understand that situations other people are in (for example, on television sitcoms) are embarrassing or uncomfortable.

Compulsive, Ritualistic Behaviors

One sign of dementia that most people don’t expect is the need to complete extreme rituals or compulsive behaviors. “Plenty of people have odd habits and like things done a certain way,” says Rankin. But while these habits are within the realm of normal, extreme hoarding behaviorsor detailed rituals or compulsions, such as buying a crossword puzzle book every time they go to the store even if they have hundreds of them, can be dementia symptoms.

Money Troubles

One of the classic early signs of Alzheimer’s disease is an increasing difficulty with money management. This might start off as having trouble balancing a checkbook or keeping up with expenses or bills, but as the disease progresses, poor financial decisions are often made across the board. Though many people brush this symptom off as just “a normal part of aging,” they shouldn’t. “We tend to associate aging with losing your mind. That’s not healthy aging — it’s a disease,” emphasizes Rankin.

Difficulty Speaking

“It’s a bad sign when people who used to be fluent and could speak smoothly stop being able to produce language that way,” says Rankin. Despite this dementia symptom, patients are often crystal clear in other areas. They can run a business, manage their family, or draw beautifully, but they have increased difficulty actually forming the words to speak.

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About thelifestylechanger

Glenda De Luca has spent over 25 years in the Beauty Industry, and has transitioned from the temporary beauty fix to permanent health and well-being, helping others transform their outer beauty based on nutrition and movement. She has also spent two years doing extensive research on the effects of pH levels in the body, and its profound impact on your health and well being. THE LIFESTYLE CHANGER Orange County, CA, USA 949.215.5701 Office 408.398.8043 Cell E-mail: thelifestylechanger@live.com Glenda has a Bachelor of Science degree in Para Psychic Sciences as well as a Level 2 Reiki Certification and is currently studying for her Masters in Holistic Nutrition. She lives a healthy lifestyle where she incorporates what she loves to eat based on a pH balanced diet, food combining, and customized supplementation based on her own personal DNA. She also incorporates movement into her Lifestyle to achieve the perfect weight and health. She is passionate about helping others achieve their Health and Wellness "Desired Results" in a manner that is fun, easy and sustainable.
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