How can you tell if a friend or family member is beginning to exhibit signs of early dementia – or merely age-appropriate forgetfulness?

According to guidelines published by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, a person who has difficulty with one or more of the following activities should be evaluated for dementia:

Dementia Symptom 1 — Learning and retaining new information. The person regularly misplaces objects, has trouble remembering appointments or recent conversations, and is repetitive in conversations.

Dementia Symptom 2 — Handling complex tasks. The individual has trouble with previously familiar activities, such as balancing a checkbook, cooking a meal, or other tasks that involve a complex train of thought.

Dementia Symptom 3 — Ability to reason. The person does not respond appropriately to everyday problems, such as a flat tire. Or a previously responsible, well-adjusted person may display poor financial or social judgment.

Dementia Symptom 4 — Spatial ability and orientation. Driving and finding one’s way in familiar surroundings become difficult or impossible, and the person may have problems recognizing known objects and landmarks.

Dementia Symptom 5 — Language. The ability to speak or comprehend is impaired, and the person may have problems following or participating in conversations.

Dementia Symptom 6 — Behavior. Personality changes emerge. For example, the person may appear more passive and less responsive than usual or more suspicious and irritable. Visual or auditory stimuli may be misinterpreted.

Source: John Hopkins — Red Flag in Mental Fuinctioning

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