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The Earlier Than Early Signs of Dementia

A resource for family members and individuals concerned about the signs and symptoms of dementia.

Putting the Pieces Together

Does Marge's story below remind you of behaviors that you have seen in a loved one? One unusual or concerning behavior may be hard to recognize. Early signs of dementia will NOT appear daily.  However, when these behaviors are put together like puzzle pieces with other signs or incidents, they can show a bigger picture of subtle cognitive changes.

Dementia, or the loss of intellectual function such as thinking, remembering or reasoning that interferes with daily life, is NOT a normal process of aging. 

Short Term Memory Loss

Do we have any beans?Although there are stacks of canned beans in the pantry, Marge keeps buying more.

Reality and Fantasy Become Blurred

Im scared! I better call somebody.Marge thinks what she sees on TV is real. If there is bad weather or a story about war, she becomes childish and frightened.

Difficulty Performing a Familiar Task

Laundry and ironing.Always neat and meticulous about laundry and ironing, Marge no longer seems to care that theses things are left undone.

Difficulty with Abstract Thinking

3+3+2=?Marge, a former book-keeper, never let her finances get out of control. Marge now finds simple math difficult and balancing her checkbook a challenge.

Time and Place Disorientation

Marge, where are you?Marge no longer recognizes familiar surroundings and sometimes wanders away from her home.

Sundowning and Sleeplessness

SundowningMarge is very agitated as evening draws near. She is restless and fearful of shadows.

Note if the following statements are true about your loved one.

Remember, these signs may be sporadic and may not take place daily. 

  • ___He/she loses interest in his/her activities, hobbies, reading, attending church or other social activities.
  • ___He/she often repeats him/herself or asks the same questions repeatedly.
  • ___He/she is more forgetful or is having trouble with short-term memory.
  • ___He/she may need constant reminders to do tasks like taking medication, shopping, etc.
  • ___He/she forgets appointments, holidays or important family dates.
  • ___He/she seems sad, in a bad mood, angry or cries more often than in the past.
  • ___He/she starts having trouble doing simple calculations, balancing a checkbook or managing finances.
  • ___He/she becomes irritable, agitated, suspicious, or has started seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real.
  • ___There are concerns about his/her driving and getting lost, or the person has stopped driving.
  • ___He/she has trouble finding the words he/she wants to say, finishing sentences or naming people or things.
  • ___His/her eating, dressing, bathing or using the bathroom habits are changing and may need help to complete.

See a doctor early if these signs are present in your loved one.

If several are noted, take your loved one to the doctor as soon as you can. Your checked statements do not necessarily mean the person you care for has Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, but may mean a visit to the doctor would be beneficial.

Ask your family physician or specialist to perform cognitive tests for dementia. An early diagnosis offers greater opportunity for better treatment of symptoms. When planning to take your loved one to the doctor, print out this page and bring it with you to discuss.

*Design and printing of this brochure was made possible by a generous donation from the Don-Kay-Clay-Cash Foundation. Contact the GIA for additional copies or download the printable version above, Putting the Pieces Together.