Warning Signs - the ABCs of Dementia

Dementia causes changes in abilities, behaviour, and communication that impact the regular daily activities of an individual’s life. These changes we call – the ABCs of Dementia

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What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a set of symptoms someone experiences due to changes in the brain that cause personal changes over time and is not a specific disease.  Dementia can be diagnosed when these symptoms are a change from normal for the individual and are severe enough to affect their daily life and function. These symptoms, including changes in abilities, behaviours, and communication, caused by neurodegenerative, progressive conditions that affect the physical structure of the brain.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging.

There is an estimated 20,000 people living with dementia in Saskatchewan. This comes from the current trend of 10 people a day being diagnosed with dementia in Saskatchewan.

Alzheimer’s disease is only one cause of dementia. Neurodegenerative, progressive conditions can also include:

  • Vascular dementia,
  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD),
  • Lewy Body dementia
  • Mixed dementia

Similar symptoms may also be caused by treatable conditions such as medication interactions, infections, and/or severe vitamin deficiencies. We recommend talking to your healthcare provider to manage any dementia symptoms you or someone you know may be experiencing.

The Warning Signs of Dementia

Different types of dementia affect the brain differently, which causes dementia to present and progress in different ways. Due to this variation, every individual’s experience with dementia is unique. Dementia causes changes in abilities, behaviour, and communication that impact the regular daily activities of an individual’s life. These changes we call – the ABCs of Dementia.

Dementia is about more than just memory loss.

Awareness that dementia impacts more than just memory is vital because, with some types of dementia, memory loss is not the first warning sign that occurs. These changes include 10 evidence-based warning signs associated with dementia. Learning the ABCs of Dementia helps build an understanding of what an individual living with dementia may be experiencing. Knowledge about these warning signs can help contribute to greater awareness and understanding for the neighbours, friends, and families in our communities and reduce the stigma that is attached to dementia.

Education can help with understanding the benefits of an early diagnosis, including accessing options for treatment, a greater understanding of the expected progression, and provides the ability to plan in advance.

ABCs of Dementia

Abilities – Changes in abilities can involve the loss of ability to perform basic tasks or a sudden struggle to complete an action that was once routine. Warning signs that involve changes in abilities include:

  • Memory loss that affects day to day abilities 
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks 
  • Disorientation in time and space 
  • Misplacing things

Behaviours – Preferences and interests can shift over time, but core personality traits generally should not. When dementia causes changes in behaviour, it may impact relationships, increase risk of social isolation, or potentially lead to a dangerous situation. Warning signs that involve changes in behaviour include:

  • Impaired judgement
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Changes in personality 
  • Loss of initiative

Communication – Changes in communication can affect conversation and an individual’s ability to understand the words and world around them. Often these changes will be apparent when vocabulary decreases, common words become difficult to understand, or sentences suddenly seem hard to follow. Interpreting signage, symbols and sentences can also become difficult. Warning signs that involve changes in communication include:

  • Problems with language 
  • Problems with abstract thinking

To learn more about the warning signs of dementia we invite you to attend one of our regular ABCs of Dementia presentations, please visit our event page below for more details.

Getting A Diagnosis

There are benefits to an early and specific diagnosis, and there are supports available.

We need to ensure that individuals are aware of all of the changes that dementia can cause so that an early diagnosis can be possible. Not only can early diagnosis help identify whether a treatable condition is causing symptoms, it can also help to:

  • Validate the symptoms being experienced and help individuals and their care partners understand why changes are occurring;
  • Connect individuals and their care partners to information about the type of dementia that is being experienced in order to prepare for the future;
  • Make it possible to access treatments, resources, and supports that may be available; and,
  • Assist family and friends in understanding how to support the individual with dementia. 

The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan’s Getting a Diagnosis Toolkit can help you prepare to start a conversation with your doctor or health provider about warning signs you are concerned about and any questions you have about a possible dementia diagnosis.

Steps to use the Getting a Diagnosis Toolkit:

1) Download the Getting a Diagnosis Toolkit here or contact the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan to request your copy.

2) Complete the simple questions and checklists included in the Toolkit. Space is included to list any questions you may have in advance, helping you to gather and compile the information you wish to discuss in one place.

3) Bring the completed Toolkit to your appointment to start a discussion with your healthcare professional. Empower yourself and others to live well by learning more about the ABCs of Dementia today and connecting to the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan provides information, support, and services for people affected by dementia.

Contact Us

The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan

The Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan provides information, support, services, and education for people affected by dementia. People who connect with the Alzheimer Society have a better experience throughout the disease continuum than those who do not. Find out more about us and how we can empower you to live well with dementia by contacting our Dementia Helpline 1-877-949-4141 between 830am and 430pm CST or email at [email protected]

Connect with our community of support: https://alzheimer.ca/sk/en/whats-happening/news/connect-our-community-support


Learn More

To learn more about the different types of dementia and the warning signs, you can view our Understanding Dementia presentation featuring Dr. Andrew Kirk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N8LsYxkTQY&t=55s

Warning signs: https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/do-i-have-dementia/10-warning-signs-dementia