Dementia is most commonly thought of as a disorder that affects memory functions. However, dementia may cause other symptoms that are unrelated to memory that can be easy to miss, especially in early stages. Understanding some common early warning signs of dementia can help seniors and their family members to seek medical help early.
Early treatment of dementia may delay or reduce symptoms, in some cases. Recognizing dementia signs may also help seniors and their loved ones to put safeguards in place, such as having a home caregiver stop in periodically, which can prevent dangerous situations.
Failure to Recognize Sarcasm
Sarcasm is very commonly used in the American culture, even unintentionally. Certain types of dementia, especially frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, may make it hard for seniors to realize that sarcasm is being used. The inability to pick up on the subtle cues such as tone and the irony or incredibility of a statement can be a sign of changes happening in the cognitive functions.
Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks
One of the most common signs of many different types of dementia is a sudden loss of ability to perform familiar tasks. Seniors that have been outstanding cooks may begin to make mistakes more frequently; seniors that have previously been great with calculations may suddenly have difficulty budgeting or making change. Mistakes happen, but if these types of errors are occurring excessively, it may be an early sign of dementia.
Disregard for Social Norms
Dementia often begins to affect people’s sense of social norms, which can lead to surprising behavior. Those with dementia in early stages may display inappropriate behavior, such as making sexual comments in public or attempting to shoplift. If a dementia evaluation is not performed in time, these behaviors may cause legal or societal issues for the dementia sufferer.
Most people have certain habits or like to have things done a certain way, but dementia can increase compulsive behaviors. In early stages of dementia, seniors may begin hoarding items or performing certain tasks in a ritualistic manner. Seniors may feel the need to buy a magazine or other item every single time they are at a store, even when they have dozens of that particular item or magazine.
Misplacing Items in Odd Places
While misplacing items is very common and is not necessarily a symptom of dementia, placing items in odd places can be a warning sign of dementia. Seniors may place keys in the sugar bowl, shoes on top of the refrigerator, or other very unusual misplacements. If this occurs several times, seniors should request a medical evaluation.