Progression of Dementia: 3 Key Signs and Symptoms to Look For

Are you concerned a senior loved one may be developing dementia? Here’s a look at the progression of dementia and what you can watch for.

A few decades ago, we considered old age and serious mental decline to go hand in hand. We called it “senility”. But science has shown that dementia is a symptom of disease, not a part of the natural aging cycle.

One in ten people over the age of 65 suffer from a form of dementia. But dementia can start slow, and its early signs can be subtle, making them hard to detect. 

Below, we’re looking at the progression of dementia and 3 key signs you can watch out for. 

1. Loss of Focus

In its earliest stages, dementia’s symptoms can seem almost normal. Even people of sound mind can lose their train of thought or forget what they were doing occasionally.

But if a loss of focus becomes a habitual trait, it could be a sign that something deeper is going on.

This loss of focus often takes the form of struggling to complete everyday tasks. This will begin with more complicated tasks, like handling finances or planning events. But it may progress to affect all aspects of daily life.

2. Difficulty of Communication

Dementia patients can struggle with communication in several ways.

In the early stages of the disease, patients may fail to recall specific words or lose their train of thought. They can also start to lose a general sense of propriety or struggle to interpret the emotions of others correctly.

As dementia progresses, they may revert to a childish mode of communication. They may struggle to hold conversations, with their interactions being one-sided and emotion-driven, or even hostile.

However, communication problems aren’t always the result of dementia. Fatigue can slow the ability to process social interactions, for example, so irregular or poor quality sleep could be an underlying cause.

3. Memory Problems

One of the symptoms most associated with dementia is the loss of memory. The end result of memory loss can be dramatic. But in the early stages of dementia, its impact may be subtle and hard to detect.

Look for signs that your loved one is struggling to remember important details, like names or significant dates in the calendar. If these names or dates represent memories usually taken for granted, like the names of grandchildren or family birthdays, they may be a warning sign.

Over time, these memory issues can become severe. The patient may eventually fail to retain memories. This can lead to them living in an eternal present, which may be the current moment or “stuck” in a previous time.

They may believe deceased family members are still alive, or fail to understand when one passes away. At this point, the patient will need constant care.

Progression of Dementia: Recognizing the Symptoms

With these 3 key signs and symptoms to look out for, you can recognize the progression of dementia. Although there’s no cure for dementia, detection and discovery of the condition can help to manage its effects as time goes on. Education is still one of the most practical ways to mitigate the impact of dementia.

If you have a loved one with dementia, you can find out how to care for them here.