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Dementia refers to a group of symptoms associated with decline in memory and thinking skills, severe enough that they affect a person’s ability to perform simple everyday functions. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are two common types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s alone accounting for around 60-80% of the cases.

There is no one test to determine if a person has dementia. The doctors consider the medical history, lab test results, symptoms and day to day behavior of a person to understand if they have dementia.

Apart from that, there are some tell-tale signs of dementia strong enough to tell you if your loved one is suffering from it:

Subtle memory changes: The changes in memory are subtle and involve short-term memory. They may not be able to recall what they had for lunch. Entering a room and forgetting what they entered it for, struggling to remember where they left an item, forgetting what they were supposed to do in a day etc. are subtle yet strong signs of dementia.

Difficulty finding the right words: A person dealing with dementia has difficulty finding the right words. They can’t remember simple words and hence find it hard to communicate. A short conversation, thus, may take longer to complete.

Mood swings: Its very common to have mood swings in dementia and you may be able to notice that in a loved one. Depression is typical in early dementia. There are also changes in the personality of the person; they may turn outgoing from being a shy person.

Apathy: They may become emotionally flat, disinterested or lack concern for people and situations. They may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy before and seem distant from friends and family. They also will show lack of interest in going out.

Difficulty in completing normal tasks: People suffering from dementia may find it hard to do simple routine tasks. It starts with more complex tasks first, like playing a game with lot of rules. It eventually comes down to everyday activities like taking a shower. Along with not doing simple tasks, they also find it difficult to learn new ones.

Confusion: A person suffering from dementia has lapses in memory and judgement. They find it harder to remember faces, words or have interactions. This can make them confused. They can meet someone today and forget their name and face the next day.

Difficulty following storylines: This is an early sign of dementia. The person may find it hard to comprehend certain words in a conversation, because they are forgetting the meaning of certain words. They may also not be able to understand things playing on the television.

Losing the sense of direction: Sense of direction starts to deteriorate with early onset of dementia. They may forget familiar landmarks or everyday routes. They maybe also not be able to follow direction and a set of instructions.

Repetitiveness: The person may perform the same task, like brushing their teeth, over and over again. This is because of memory lapses and change in behavior. They can also repeatedly ask you the same question even after you have answered it.

Struggling to adapt to change: Early stages of dementia can cause fear in a person. They forget why they went to a place, forget how to get back home and even forget familiar faces. This leaves them scared and they crave for routine. They may not want to try a new route, meet a new person or go to a new place. Difficulty in adapting to change is also an early sign of dementia.

If your loved one is displaying a combination of any of the above two signs, its best to consult a neurologist as soon as possible. With the right tests, they will be able to decide the severity of dementia and suggest the best course of treatment.

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