Signs and symptoms of dementia in seniors

The signs and symptoms of dementia are typically categorized as being in one of three stages: early stage, middle stage and late stage. Dementia is a global issue that affects people’s daily lives in myriad ways. 

According to the World Health Organization, dementia is a syndrome marked by deterioration in memory, thinking and behavior. That deterioration affects dementia patients’ ability to perform everyday activities, potentially robbing them of their independence.

The WHO reports that approximately 50 million people across the globe have dementia and there are nearly 10 million new cases diagnosed each year. Though the hallmarks of dementia, such as memory loss, might be the same, the WHO notes that dementia affects each person differently. That’s due to certain factors, including a patient’s personality prior to becoming ill. Though people will experience dementia differently, the signs and symptoms of the disease are typically categorized as being in one of three stages: early stage, middle stage and late stage.

Early stage

Signs and symptoms that mark the early stage of dementia are often chalked up as side effects of aging. But the WHO notes that dementia is not a normal part of aging, so its signs and symptoms, even if they are not yet severe or significant, should not be written off as a byproduct of growing old. Common symptoms in the early stage of dementia include forgetfulness, losing track of the time and becoming lost in familiar places.

Middle stage

Life becomes more difficult during the middle stage of dementia, when signs and symptoms become more apparent. The forgetfulness present in the early stage now becomes forgetfulness of recent events and people’s names. People in the middle stage also may become lost in their own homes and experience a growing difficulty with communication. People in this stage may need help caring for themselves, and some experience behavioral changes such as wandering and repeated questioning.

Late stage

Memory disturbances are significant in the late stage of dementia, when people are almost entirely dependent on others. People in late-stage dementia may have difficulty recognizing relatives and friends and be unaware of the time and place. Many people in this stage need assistance with self-care and they may have difficulty walking. 

Behavioral changes may escalate, and some people in this stage become aggressive, even toward their loved ones.

Dementia affects tens of millions of people across the globe. Though there currently is no cure for dementia, the WHO emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis, which starts with learning the stages of dementia and the hallmarks of each stage.

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