Dementia: How to recognize the first signs

Dementia: How to recognize the first signs

Dementia is a disease that becomes more likely to develop with age. It is all the more important to recognize early on when the first signs of the disease appear because starting therapy early can delay the course of dementia somewhat. But how can you identify the onset of dementia? Below, you will find out which symptoms are indicative of dementia.

emergence of dementia

Dementia describes the state of mental deterioration and the loss of previously controlled abilities. The reasons for this are different. The most common subtype is Alzheimer’s dementia in which nerve cells in the brain are destroyed because protein plaques build up in them. Another cause of dementia is insufficient blood flow to the brain. This form of the disease is called vascular dementia. It is based on many small strokes, which only become noticeable in the sum.

All forms of dementia lead to changes in the affected person, which affects memory and can also be noticed by relatives.


First signs of dementia

Not everyone who becomes forgetful has dementia. It’s natural to misplace and forget – part of the normal ageing process. But how do you recognize dementia in the early stages?

If the onset of dementia is suspected, relatives and doctors can look for specific clues. Behavioural observations, language tests and cognitive tasks are constructive in identifying the first signs of dementia. The following symptoms indicate the onset of dementia.

  1. Language Restrictions

Those affected often have problems finding the right words in a conversation (speech disorders) or following the other person during the conversation. They appear inattentive and often ask the same questions several times. Difficulty writing can also occur.


  1. Judgment diminishes

People with dementia often have difficulty understanding complex things that were previously easily understood, such as how to cook a meal, shop at the supermarket, or operate simple electrical appliances. Declining judgment is also often reflected in an unsuitable choice of clothing, for example, wearing a winter coat in summer or misjudgment of dangers.

Even in financial matters, the overview is often lost. In addition, paying bills or completing transfers suddenly causes difficulties.

  1. Forgetfulness in everyday life

Objects are misplaced (often in unusual places, such as the car key in the refrigerator), things that have already been said are repeated several times, and appointments are forgotten. Often, this forgetfulness relates to recent experiences (memory gaps). For example, those affected sometimes must remember to turn off the stove. In addition, they sometimes find it challenging to assign the right name to familiar faces.

  1. Loss of orientation

People with dementia often have trouble orienting themselves in previously familiar surroundings. There are also difficulties in adjusting to a new environment.

But temporal orientation is also often difficult, for example,e, the classification of the year or the season or reading the clock.


  1. Personality Changes

Personality changes often become apparent in the early stages of dementia, for example:

  • increased irritability to the point of hostility and aggressiveness
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • mistrust
  • internal and external unrest
  • depressive moods
  • declining interest in hobbies and social contacts
  • powerlessness
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep-wake cycle

This behaviour is often paired with a stubborn denial of the changes when sick people are asked about them by relatives, for example.

Symptoms of dementia depending on the stage

The clinical picture changes as the disease progresses. Slight limitations, typical for the early stage of dementia, become apparent when complicated everyday tasks, such as arithmetic or reading a clock, can no longer be solved. An independent lifestyle is then already restricted but still possible.

It becomes more problematic when even simple everyday tasks can no longer be mastered, such as dressing and grooming correctly, because everyday objects are no longer recognized as such in their function. Those affected are then dependent on outside help.

In a severe form of dementia, the cognitive functions of the patient are so limited that they can no longer understand even simple trains of thought.

Additional imaging studies

Brain imaging tests like MRI are not among the first steps in diagnosing dementia. However, they can help to differentiate between the different forms of dementia and their causes. In vascular dementia, which is caused by many small strokes, the scars from the strokes show up on MRI or CT, for example.

In Alzheimer’s dementia, PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computed tomography) shows a lower metabolism of the nerve cells in the brain. In addition, study results have shown that the size of the brain is reduced in advanced Alzheimer’s dementia on MRI. However, this is not specific enough to make a diagnosis – the changes mentioned as symptoms of mental deterioration are groundbreaking for the diagnosis of “dementia”.


Distinguish dementia from other diseases.

It is also essential to differentiate dementia from other diseases, for example, depression, which is often also associated with a deterioration in mental performance. If dementia is suspected, it should also not be forgotten that other causes, such as malnutrition, new hearing loss or a malfunction of the thyroid gland, can also cause symptoms similar to dementia.

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