10 Signs for Early Dementia

Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
November 10, 2019

A predictable and unavoidable part of aging includes the natural deterioration of a person’s brain.  This deterioration happens to everyone, but can happen at a more rapid pace for those with dementia. Dementia is a condition that results when the nerve cells in an individual’s brain stop working all together.  Dementia negatively impacts a person’s cognitive functioning including memory, reasoning, and thinking capabilities.  There are many different kinds of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia frequently occurs in the elderly and tends to worsen over time. 


Due to the progression of the condition, it is important to diagnose and treat dementia as early as possible.  There are several warning signs that can indicate if a person is starting to develop, or has already developed dementia.

10 signs for early dementia include:

  1. The loss of memory: Significant impairments in memory can be indicative of the onset of dementia. An individual with dementia may have difficulties remembering and retaining information that was just presented to them. They have trouble recalling dates, past experiences, or brand new information. They often have problems remembering where they placed personal items and need assistance with keeping track of their things.
  2. Impaired problem-solving:  A person may begin to see deterioration in their problem-solving abilities. Solving problems, following directions, and planning can become more challenging.
  3. Trouble completing familiar tasks:  An individual with dementia commonly finds it very difficult to engage and complete familiar tasks at home and at work. They may have trouble cooking pasta, driving to a familiar place, or working their television remote or computer.
  4. Confused orientation to time and place: If a person begins to experience difficulty with time, it can be an early warning sign of dementia. An individual may feel like they are losing time, or have trouble gauging the passing of time. A person may forget where they are, or have trouble discerning if something has happened in the past or will happen in the future.
  5. Difficulty comprehending visual information: Tasks that involve visual or spatial information can become challenging such as balance, reading, color contrast, or differentiating distances.
  6. Impairments in writing and speech: A person with dementia can have trouble conversing with others. They may forget what they are trying to convey mid-sentence or have trouble recalling what another person has just verbalized. They may repeat themselves and develop difficulty with their vocabulary. Handwriting may also become difficult to read and spelling and grammar tend to deteriorate as well.
  7. Losing Objects: An individual may put personal items in odd places or have difficulty recalling where they left important items, such as their cell phone, glasses, keys, or credit cards. Individuals often tend to accuse others of stealing instead of accepting that they themselves have misplaced a personal item.    
  8. Impacted judgment: Discerning what is equitable and fair can be difficult for someone struggling with dementia. Impaired judgment tends to have a negative impact on decision making.
  9. Social withdrawal: Troubles with conversing can cause a person with dementia to isolate and withdraw from activities, hobbies, and socialization opportunities. People may stop engaging with others in conversation or withdraw from things or places where a lot of people are present.
  10. Mood alterations: A person can start to experience changes in personality or vacillations in mood. They may become easily distressed, display inappropriate behaviors, or stop caring about personal maintenance and hygiene. 

If one or more of these warning signs are apparent in yourself or a loved one, it is important to get checked out by a physician.  A physician will perform a thorough exam and a formal assessment and evaluation to determine if dementia or usual age-related changes may be the cause of symptoms.  Early detection and diagnosis is critical, as the progression of dementia can be slowed and symptoms can be alleviated to improve a person’s quality of life.  

Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.