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10 Early Signs of Dementia

Health visitor talking to a senior woman during home visit

Research published by The Journals of Gerontology shows 9 million people could have dementia by 2030, and almost 12 million by 2040. While there is no way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, early detection is key to slowing  their progression.

If you think memory loss and other signs of aging could mean something more, read these 10 early signs of dementia, so you can have a conversation with your doctor and make a plan for your future health care needs.

1. Difficulty with daily tasks

Forgetting a monthly payment once in a while or blanking on someone’s name can be normal parts of aging. However, when regularly keeping track of your bills, following a familiar recipe, or playing a game with a lot of rules suddenly becomes difficult, it could be an early sign of dementia. You might also notice difficulty in learning a new routine or loss of interest in completing familiar tasks.

2. Changes in behavior

Many loved ones of people with dementia report that family members with dementia act in ways that differ from their “old self.” That’s because dementia affects the area of the brain that controls aspects of your personality. You may become more insensitive to others, irritated by your environment and less motivated to find peaceful solutions to simple disagreements.

3. Changes in mental health

Depression is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, especially during the early and middle stages. It differs from typical depression, because symptoms may not last very long and they may come and go. It’s important not to self-diagnose depression. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional who specializes in recognizing and treating depression and other mental health concerns in older adults.

4. Unusual eating patterns

Early symptoms of dementia cause subtle changes in your eating patterns. These changes can include skipping meals, a fluctuating  appetite, getting easily distracted during mealtimes and sudden changes in food preferences. Those with frontotemporal dementia are more likely to overeat because of a disruption in the brain’s serotonin system, while older adults with Alzheimer’s have difficulty chewing and swallowing as symptoms progress.

5. Memory loss 

One of the most common signs of dementia is memory loss. Accidentally leaving your kitchen cabinet doors open  or noting reminders or dates on  your calendar are normal signs of forgetfulness at any age. However, if you’re increasingly relying on reminders to help you remember things or have missed entire events because of forgetfulness, you might have memory loss caused by dementia.

6. Changes in sleep patterns

Disruption in your sleep cycle may be one of the first signs of certain forms of dementia, because it affects the part of the brain that controls your circadian rhythm. A newly developed habit of daytime napping and feeling extra lethargic during the day, combined with constant restless nights, could be early warning signs of dementia. Keep in mind, poor sleep isn’t always a sign of dementia. You might just need to reorganize your sleep routine and focus on creating a more comfortable environment.

7. Decline in communication skills

Dementia affects how you understand spoken and written language, which can make it difficult to find the right words, follow conversations, spell words or write sentences. Consider discussing concerns about dementia with your doctor, if you’re struggling with tasks like creating a simple message for a birthday card or understanding a story told by a friend.

8. Misplacing items

Misplacing an item from time to time is normal, but when you have dementia, it may be difficult to retrace your footsteps in order to find it. Symptoms of dementia might also cause you to place items in extremely unusual places, which makes them even more difficult to find. This can lead to frustration with the members of your household and even cause you to accuse people of stealing.

9. Disorientation

Dementia affects how you perceive time and environment. You might misunderstand the occurrence of past and future events, struggle with dates, repeatedly forget why you entered a room, or get lost while driving in a familiar area. Disorientation of place is one of the most dangerous symptoms of dementia because you could get lost and be unable to find your way home.

10. Loss of coordination skills

Signs of mid- to late-stage dementia include obvious signs of a loss of coordination skills, like the inability to button a shirt or use a razor to shave. However, early signs of coordination loss may be as subtle as constantly missing the edge of the table when you set down a glass or dish or difficulty using a knife to cut vegetables. It’s important to note that many medications and other health conditions can cause a loss of coordination skills. Be sure to mention your complete health history when you talk to your doctor about dementia.

John Knox Village Offers a Holistic Approach to Memory Care

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the compassionate care teams at John Knox Village are here to help. We offer a variety of services to assist Village residents as your situation progresses.

Those with early stage dementia can benefit from medication management assistance through the Resident Wellness Clinic.

Village Outpatient Therapy can offer free memory screenings to assess cognitive skills and abilities, and their speech therapy team can help with some early memory loss issues.

Village Home Health may also be able to assist those who are homebound.

Village Assisted Living provides two levels of memory care services in comfortable, secure environments for residents with early- to mid-stage dementia. They use a holistic approach for care that draws on each resident’s experiences and preferences.

Residents with mid- to late- stage dementia who have also secured a full continuum of care through their entrance fee have priority access to our Village Care Center, where their needs are met in a memory care neighborhood in Lee’s Summit, with 24-hour nursing care provided by professional skilled nursing staff and highly specialized services.

Here are  just a few more ways our memory care neighborhoods create environments suited to many needs at John Knox Village:

  • 24-hour nursing care provided by expert staff, trained to provide specialized, person-centered care
  • Private or semiprivate rooms
  • Secured entrances
  • Outdoor courtyards
  • Beauty and barber salon
  • Laundry services
  • Three delicious, nutritious meals, and a snack every day
  • Personalized assistance, including bathing, dressing, dining, medication supervision and other daily living assistance as needed

Memory Care at Our Senior Living Community in Lee’s Summit

At our Life Plan Community in Lee’s Summit, MO, staff members in our memory care and assisted living neighborhoods carry with them a compassionate temperament and a passion for providing dignified, respectful care for every resident. To learn more about how you or a loved one can receive higher levels of care as a resident at John Knox Village, visit our website or call our senior living team 816-347-2700. We look forward to hearing from you!