If you lose your keys or can’t remember where you parked your car, it’s not uncommon to worry it could be one of the early signs of dementia.

Memory loss is one of the main symptoms of dementia, but it’s also a normal part of ageing. For many of us, forgetting things from time to time is just part of life.

Memory loss is often one of the first symptoms of dementia to appear. So how can we tell if it’s simple forgetfulness, or an early sign of dementia?

In this blog we’ll cover the early signs of dementia and how to differentiate them from normal signs of ageing. Here’s what we’ll cover:

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How dementia affects memory

Dementia can affect memory in different ways, but there are some key things to look out for.

  • Memory loss that is persistent and gets worse over time
  • Short-term memory loss – forgetting what someone told you five minutes ago
  • Memory loss that interferes with the ability to function day-to-day, for example, that causes the inability to perform at work
  • Forgetting how to perform everyday activities, such as getting dressed or cooking
  • Forgetting previously familiar information about history or politics


— Other early signs of dementia

The early signs of dementia are different for everyone. However, there are some common symptoms other than memory loss. These include:

  • Having trouble navigating, for example getting lost in the supermarket or on your way home from work
  • Putting things in unusual places, such as putting your keys in a kitchen drawer
  • Following written or verbal directions may become more difficult
  • Have trouble learning new tasks
  • Following a conversation as language and understanding become more difficult
  • Losing track of the date and year
  • Losing the ability to follow a television programme, a movie or book
  • Making poor decisions regularly
  • Having trouble paying bills on time
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Losing interest in work, friends and hobbies
  • Becoming unusually anxious or frightened
  • Easily upset, even in comfortable or familiar surroundings

Symptoms such as hallucinations and inappropriate language or behaviour may be signs of less common forms of dementia, such as dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.


What are the normal signs of ageing?

Normal memory loss, which may begin to appear in a person’s 40s, can include the following:

  • Becoming more forgetful
  • Taking longer to recall things
  • Getting distracted easily
  • Finding it difficult to do more than one thing at a time

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have dementia, it’s important to speak to your doctor sooner rather than later. Your GP will be able to provide information about the condition and give advice about maximising quality of life living with dementia.

Doctors may also be able to recommend medication to help slow the disease’s progression or even provide you with access to a medical trial.

While a dementia diagnosis always comes as shock, getting it early gives you time to discuss the condition with friends and family and organise powers of attorney and advance decision makers.

An early diagnosis is also the best way to preserve your quality of life for as long as possible.