Sign 1: Memory changes that affect day-to-day abilities
Are you, or the person you know, forgetting things often or struggling to retain new information?
It's normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number only to remember them a short while later. However, a person living with dementia may forget things more often or may have difficulty recalling information that has recently been learned.
Sign 2: Difficulty doing familiar tasks
Are you, or the person you know, forgetting how to do a typical routine or task, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed?
Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may forget to serve part of a meal, only to remember about it later. However, a person living with dementia may have trouble completing tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal or playing a game.
Sign 3: Changes in language and communication
Are you, or the person you know, forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit into a conversation?
Anyone can have trouble finding the right word to express what they want to say. However, a person living with dementia may forget simple words or may substitute words making that person hard to understand.
Sign 4: Disorientation in time and place
Are you, or the person you know, having problems knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place?
Have you ever forgotten what day of the week it is or can't remember why you went into your bedroom? It happens to all of us. However, people living with dementia can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.
Sign 5: Impaired judgment
Are you, or the person you know, not recognizing something that can put health and safety at risk?
From time to time, people may make bad decisions such as putting off seeing a doctor when they are not feeling well. However, a person living with dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision-making, such as not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.
Sign 6: Problems with abstract thinking
Are you, or the person you know, having problems understanding what numbers and symbols mean?
From time to time, people may have difficulty with tasks that require abstract thinking, such managing finances. However, someone living with dementia may have challenges understanding what numbers are and how they are used.
Sign 7: Misplacing things
Are you, or the person you know, putting things in places where they shouldn't be?
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. However, a person living with dementia may put things in inappropriate places. For example, an iron in the freezer, or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
Sign 8: Changes in mood, personality and behaviour
Are you, or the person you know, exhibiting severe changes in mood?
Sometimes people feel sad and moody, or experience changes in their behaviour. But a person living with dementia may experience more severe changes. For example, they may quickly become tearful or upset for no obvious reason. They may be confused, fearful, suspicious and withdraw from others. They may act differently from what is normal for them.
Sign 9: Loss of initiative
Are you, or the person you know, losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities?
It's normal to lose interest in housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. However, a person living with dementia may become passive and disinterested. They may need cues and prompts to become involved.
Sign 10: Challenges understanding visual and spatial information
Are you or someone you know having problems seeing things correctly? Or coordinating visual and spatial information?
A person with dementia may have problems with vision, depth perception and movement. They may have challenges with finding their way around their environment, or placing things easily and correctly on a table, such as a pencil or mug. Sometimes dementia can be the cause of these issues, and it's important to see a doctor and an eye specialist to get everything checked out.
If you are concerned about any of these signs, the next step is to talk to your doctor. Only a qualified health-care provider, after multiple assessments and tests, can confirm whether you or someone you know has dementia.
Not all symptoms for each type of dementia are listed on this page—just the most common ones. They are based on signs outlined by Alzheimer's Disease International. Visit the Alzheimer's Disease International website to see these steps outlined in Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Chinese and other languages.