How to Recognize Early Signs of Dementia in a Loved One at Home

Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by damage to the brain from diseases like Alzheimer’s. It’s important to recognize dementia symptoms early, as early treatment can slow progression. Though symptoms vary by type, here are some common early signs to watch for in a loved one:

Memory Loss 

One of the most common early symptoms is memory loss, like forgetting recent events or asking the same questions repeatedly. Your loved one may forget names, faces, appointments, or get confused about time and place.

Difficulty with Daily Tasks 

Look for increasing difficulty with familiar tasks requiring organization like managing bills, following recipes, or getting confused with the right change when shopping.

Communication Struggles 

Listen for struggling to find the right word in conversation or difficulty following along. Your loved one may withdraw more in social settings or repeat themselves.


Watch for confusion about time, place, or people’s identities. Your loved one may get lost in unfamiliar environments or struggle to follow conversations.

Mood Changes 

Notice any unexplained mood swings like depression, anxiety, agitation, or apathy. Personality changes like reduced empathy and inappropriate behavior can also occur.

Movement Changes 

Subtle physical changes like reduced walking speed, balance issues, and clumsiness may indicate dementia. Monitor any fainting, falls, or tremors.

Vision Changes 

Some types of dementia cause visual hallucinations early on. Your loved one may report seeing things that aren’t there.

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Sleep Disturbances 

Take note if your loved one has trouble sleeping or experiences wandering, pacing, or agitation at night. Sundowning in the evenings is also common.

Behavior Changes 

Look for obsessive behavior like developing odd food fads or overeating/drinking. Impulsivity, compulsiveness, and lack of self-care may also emerge.

Since early symptoms can be mild, it may take time to notice them. But the earlier dementia is caught, the better. Keep notes on any worrying changes and talk to your loved one’s doctor, especially if multiple symptoms appear or persist over time. With early intervention, progression can hopefully be slowed to retain more quality time together.


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