Early Signs of Dementia Checklist

Posted on Monday, September 11, 2023
by Ian Gargan

According to a Colombia University study, 10% of adults over 65 have dementia, and an additional 22% have mild cognitive impairments. Although dementia and cognitive impairment are common, many Americans are unaware of the early signs. AMAC has researched and compiled a checklist of many early signs of dementia that you can use to monitor your loved ones.


Everyone misplaces keys or loses a remote to the couch cushions, but the signs to watch out for are forgetting recent events or conversations they’ve had with friends. Other signs could include missing appointments or scheduled meetings. 

Another early sign of dementia is the repetitive asking of the same questions. If you find your loved one is constantly asking one question about a place, time, or name, this could be an early sign of dementia.

Many Americans use notes or calendars to recall important information, but when you see a loved one begin to leave reminders about everyday tasks, there is a call for alarm. Things like locking the door, combing your hair, or brushing your teeth should not be noteworthy.

Difficulties communicating

Language performance is influenced by normal aging and by the development of dementia. Difficulty communicating is one of the earliest signs of dementia and one of the most common things seen among aging adults without dementia. Communication is a very common area to overlook due to these factors. Seeing a loved one struggle to find the proper words or using inappropriate terms to finish a sentence could be a warning sign. The need to search for words when naming people or objects will be the first sign, as well as substituting the wrong word, like calling a plate a bowl.

When people struggle to find the proper words to form a sentence, they use fewer words, less difficult words, and more incomplete, fragmented sentences. Typically brain degeneration begins with the lexical use of words, meaning the words in relation to what they mean as opposed to the syntax or the arrangement of the words. The misarrangement of words in a sentence comes in the late stages of dementia.  


Orientation refers to one’s awareness of themselves, the surroundings, and time. Often used as a screening question by healthcare professionals, they use a sliding scale, often referred to as the “ballpark” method, to make these judgments. Like many busy Americans, who knows what day it is? So, you said it’s the 24th when it’s the 25th, no big deal. If you find a loved one is off by a season or a year, this is when it begins to become alarming.

Executive Function

The deterioration of one’s executive function is difficult to determine in aging Americans because some do not have a strong hold on these functions even in their prime. Functions include poor judgment, disorganization, socially inappropriate behavior, or difficulty making plans. But if that were the only sign, many college students would have been incorrectly diagnosed with dementia. You need to judge if there has been a sharp drop in these functions compared to the times before. Specific types of dementia affect the frontal lobe, which controls executive function.

Sudden changes in mood

Much like you see in children, a loved one dealing with insufficient linguistic abilities to communicate what they want will result in them becoming aggravated. When your brain cannot complete the functions asked, it triggers an unusual emotional response. Other things to watch for are a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable and a withdrawal from social interactions.


Please note that experiencing one or two of these symptoms should not lead to a self-diagnosis of your loved one with dementia. However, if you are closely watching someone above 65, this early signs of dementia checklist could be helpful to diagnose dementia in a more treatable stage. Although it is not curable, doctors can prescribe medications to ward off the symptoms and support a longer and more fruitful life. Like anything in life, slow, gradual changes tend to go unnoticed. Using the early sign of dementia checklist to watch your aging family and recognize if something is wrong while it is likely more treatable.  

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