As you get older, you may have moments where you think you have dementia because you occasionally forget someone’s name or you can’t recall where you placed your car keys. In reality, these are both part of normal forgetfulness. Dementia is defined as the loss of cognitive functioning that interferes with your daily life and activities. There are actually several types of dementia. You may hear a lot about Alzheimer’s disease, but that’s actually just one type of dementia. Early dementia or cognitive decline has some specific warning signs. Read on to find out more.
1. You forget recently learned information
Although occasional forgetfulness is normal with age, an early warning sign of dementia or cognitive declined is when you can’t remember information you’ve recently learned, such as important dates and events. You may ask the same questions over and over to help your memory. You may find yourself increasingly using paper or electronic reminder notes to recall information. The memory problems are typically bad enough to disrupt your daily life.
2. You have trouble with planning and problem-solving skills
In your daily routine, you may cook from a recipe, balance your budget, or do other practical numerical-based problem-solving. One early sign of dementia or cognitive decline is losing the ability to do these types of planning and problem-solving tasks. Or, when you do them, it takes you longer and you have trouble concentrating.
3. You get easily confused about time and place
It’s fine if you occasionally question what day of the week it is and then figure out the answers. What’s more concerning is if you find yourself routinely forgetting dates, seasons, and the routine passage of time. Another sign that could be related to early dementia or cognitive decline: forgetting where you are and how you got there.
4. You misplace things frequently
Everyone misplaces items from time to time. If you find yourself misplacing items more frequently and you can’t find the items that you lost, this could be a sign of early dementia.
5. You’re not able to use words correctly
If you look around right now, you probably can name a few of the items around you—say, a watch, an oven, or a coffee maker. When you have early dementia or cognitive decline, you may frequently have trouble recalling the correct words for those common items. For instance, you may call a watch a hand-clock.
6. You have trouble speaking in social situations
Dementia can make it challenging to take part in a conversation normally. You may have trouble joining a conversation. Or, if you’re talking with someone else, you may stop while you’re talking and be unsure how to continue. You also may find you’re repeating yourself (see below).
7. You repeat stories
You may have an interesting story to tell about grandkids or another family member. It’s normal to want to share the stories with others. However, it could be an early warning sign of dementia if you repeat that same story several times, particularly in the same time period. For instance, you tell the story once and then tell it again just a few minutes later.
8. You experience mood changes
If you have early dementia or cognitive decline, you may become easily upset, especially outside of your normal environment. You may also feel anxious, suspicious, or depressed in ways you didn’t feel in the past.
9. You start using poor judgment
A person with early dementia or cognitive decline may make more questionable judgements. This could lead to unpredictable spending, poorer grooming habits, and not maintaining your car or your home as much as you did previously.
If you believe that you or a loved one has signs of early dementia or cognitive decline, schedule an appointment with a health care provider for a thorough check-up. There can be many causes of signs related to early dementia, including an infection, depression, or as the side effect of a medication used. A doctor may refer you to a neurologist for more thorough testing. The earlier you can see a health care provider, the sooner you can find out the exact causes of the problem.