What are the first signs of dementia?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 01, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Can you tell me the first signs of dementia please? My sister in law is showing signs of memory loss and she cries for no real reason. I'm really worried for her, when asked a question she looks at you very vague.

Expert Answers

Brenda Avadian, brings knowledge, hope, and joy to family caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. She cared for her father with Alzheimer's and helps families one-on-one and in groups. She is the author of eight books, including the pioneering memoir "Where's my shoes?" My Father's Walk through Alzheimer's and the Finding the JOY in Alzheimer's series. She presents vivid, compelling, and funny keynotes to both professional and family caregiving audiences.

The first signs of dementia may include:

  • Forgetting family members, appointments, events or discussions from recent past, ownership of assets, misplacing things, repeated phone calls or questions.

  • Disorientation in familiar places"”getting lost, wanting to go home.

  • Lack of sound judgment"”writing checks or sending money to questionable organizations, reduced emphasis on hygiene.

Other causes of her dementia-like symptoms--for example her vague look when you ask her a question or her sudden bursts of crying--could be the result of a number of things including:

  • Multiple medications that need reevaluation as to their continued usefulness or dose

  • Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) also known as mini strokes

  • Depending on her age and general mood, hormones may play a role in the crying or depression may be the cause of the vague look.

We can try to guess what is happeneing to your sister-in-law; however, to be sure get a medical assessment by a qualified professional"”a geriatrician or neurologist.

While you wait for a professional diagnosis, you and those who spend time with her can better learn what your sister-in-law is experiencing if you track her behaviors on a sheet of paper. Keep your record sheet in an agreed upon place where each of you can note four items each time an unusual behavior occurs:

  1. Date

  2. Time

  3. Brief description of what you observed

  4. What she was doing before the behavior occurred

Over time you'll notice behavioral patterns and maybe even associate behaviors during certain times of day"”for example, after you discuss a certain topic or after she eats--that will prove invaluable when you meet with a professional.

For more information, click on the following links:

*Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia: What to Look For

*Early Signs of Dementia Checklist

Community Answers

Lmorquecho answered...

The first sign of dementia is when a person asks the same question over and over again without realizing it on a daily basis.