Because dementia affects each individual differently, it can be difficult to pinpoint the first symptoms of dementia. However, there are some general early warning signs of frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other types of dementia that you can watch out for as a caregiver or for yourself. Some changes in habits over time may be a normal part of life, so it’s important to distinguish between signs of aging and signs of dementia.
Dementia typically has seven stages, with stage 1 indicating no cognitive impairment and stage 7 showing very severe cognitive decline. The beginning stages of dementia may not be noticeable to a patient, their family, or their medical team. It can be difficult to pinpoint an exact time or a first symptom during the initial stages of dementia.
The beginning of symptoms of dementia usually start slowly as brain changes occur over time. The accumulation of symptoms through time leads to gradually noticeable changes in the person with dementia.
While older people may have memory lapses or declining abilities, some of these issues can be considered a usual part of aging. However, some changes may be signs of early dementia in the 50s and beyond.
You can watch your loved one for the following 10 warning signs of dementia in women and in men :
To further understand your loved one’s situation at home, you can download or print out the 10 Early Signs of Dementia Checklist and work through it with your loved one, your family members, and your loved one’s medical care team.
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Different types of dementia may present differently. Review the beginning signs of dementia across these most common forms :
As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It results from changes in the brain related to an accumulation of plaques.
The first sign of Alzheimer’s disease is typically trouble remembering recent events.
However, as the disease progresses, symptoms may include the following, as well :
Sometimes referred to as frontotemporal disorders, this type of dementia occurs when damage happens to the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Symptoms of frontotemporal dementia typically include the following :
This term refers to two types of dementia: Dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. How symptoms appear varies greatly, which makes it a challenge to identify beginning symptoms. Patients with Lewy body dementia may notice any of the following symptoms :
Sometimes a patient may have more than one type of dementia, which is typically referred to as mixed dementia. The very nature of having more than one type makes it difficult to even identify the beginning of dementia. In some cases, symptoms may mimic those of Alzheimer’s disease or of vascular dementia.
This disease can have a gradual or rapid onset. Any of the following symptoms may be early warning signs :
From research over the last three decades, it appears that women and men may face different risks for different types of dementia. However, it’s important to understand that brain-related research remains largely in its infancy.
Men may face an increased risk or incidence of the following types of dementia, according to research through the University of Pennsylvania :
Meanwhile, the same University of Pennsylvania research showed that women may be at a nearly twofold increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Research conclusions do vary, though: In one study, the suggested incidence rate of Alzheimer’s disease in people between 65 and 100 years old is 28.1% in women versus 25.5% in men.
While it can vary by individual, the average dementia onset age in the U.S. is estimated to be 83.7 years old.Though, the dementia age range varies greatly, with people diagnosed with dementia as early as their 20s.
Younger people are more aware of dementia risks and signs, and more are beginning to ask at what age you can get dementia. This type of dementia, sometimes referred to as young-onset dementia, means a person has dementia prior to turning 65 years old. The signs and symptoms of early onset dementia are similar to the signs of dementia in elderly people.
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After learning more about 10 signs of dementia, you may be wondering if you or your loved one have dementia. You can track the potential onset of dementia symptoms at home. If you notice that your loved one is showing the signs of dementia onset, strive to approach them from a place of love and compassion. Guide them to a medical professional for further evaluation. Keep in mind that while there is no cure for dementia at this time, early detection is helpful for slowing decline and protecting quality of life.
Your loved one may ask you to accompany them to their dementia evaluation. It’s important to be prepared to talk to your loved one’s medical care team by doing the following:
If your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, take time to reflect and find peace before making any significant changes. Depending on your loved one’s stage of dementia, they may be able to live at home until their disease progresses further.
While a dementia diagnosis may feel overwhelming, the Senior Living Advisors at A Place for Mom offer free consultations to help you find in-home care or senior living options that may fit your loved one’s unique memory care needs when the time comes.
National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. (2021, July 2). What is dementia? Symptoms, types, and diagnosis.
Centers for Disease Control. (2019, April 5). What is dementia?
National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. (2019, December 24). What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. (2021, July 30). What are frontotemporal disorders? Causes, symptoms, and treatment.
National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. (2021, July 29). What is Lewy body dementia? Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Dementia UK. Mixed dementia.
National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health. (2021, November 1). Vascular dementia: Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Mielke, M. M. (2018, November 29). Sex and gender differences in Alzheimer disease dementia. Psychiatric Times.
Podcasy, J. L. & Epperson, C. N. (2016, December). Considering sex and gender in Alzheimer disease and other dementias. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.
Seshadri, S., Wolf, P. A., Beiser, A., Au, R., McNultry, K., White, R., and D’Agostino, R. B. (1997, December). Lifetime risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The impact of mortality on risk estimates in the Framingham study. Neurology.
Fishman, E. (2017, August 3). Risk of developing dementia at older ages in the United States.Demography.
Somper, J. (2018, October 2). This 23-year-old man is the youngest person in UK to be diagnosed with dementia – after watching it kill his mum. The Daily Record.
Rossor, M. N., Fox, N. C., Mummery, C. J., Schott, J. M., & Warren, J. D. The diagnosis of young-onset dementia. Lancet Neurology.
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