Dementia symptoms

 This information looks at common symptoms and signs of dementia, how it progresses and how to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.

Common symptoms of dementia

Each person experiences dementia in their own individual way. Different types of dementia also tend to affect people differently, especially in the early stages.

However, there are some common early signs and symptoms of dementia. These include:

  • memory loss – for example, problems recalling things that happened recently
  • difficulty concentrating, planning or organising – for example, struggling to make decisions, solve problems or follow a series of steps (such as cooking a meal)
  • problems with language and communication – for example, difficulties following a conversation or finding the right word for something
  • misunderstanding what is being seen – for example, problems judging distances (such as on stairs) or perceiving the edges of objects, and misinterpreting patterns or reflections
  • being confused about time or place – for example, losing track of the time or date, or becoming confused about where they are
  • mood changes or difficulty controlling emotions – for example, becoming unusually anxiousirritable, sad or frightened, losing interest in things and personality changes.

Symptoms as dementia progresses

As a person’s dementia progresses they are likely to experience additional symptoms:

  • aggressive behaviour – as a person’s dementia progresses, they may sometimes behave in ways that are physically or verbally aggressive.
  • Walking about - walking repeatedly around at home or leaving the house during the day or night
  • Lack of insight - when a person with dementia is unable to recognise changes in their behaviour and emotions
  • Sleep problems – As well as disruption to their body clock, a person with dementia may sleep more in the day and have difficulty sleeping at night
  • Delusions – strongly believing something that is false
Explaining your symptoms to a GP

If you're worried about yourself or someone close to you, complete our symptoms checklist and show it to your GP.

Complete the symptoms checklist

People with dementia often experience memory loss. This is because dementia is caused by damage to the brain, and this damage can affect areas of the brain involved in creating and retrieving memories.

All types of dementia are progressive. How quickly dementia progresses depends on the individual. Each person is unique and experiences dementia in their own way. This can depend on many factors, including physical make-up, emotional resilience and the support available to them.

Towards the later stage of dementia, a person will also need more support with:

People often start to forget things more as they get older. Most often this is a normal sign of ageing. But for someone with dementia, changes will be different, more serious and will affect their life more.

Is it getting older, or dementia?

Several things can cause problems with your memory, including stress, anxiety and depression. Talk to a GP if memory problems are affecting your day-to-day life.

Dementia-like symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as:

As a person’s dementia progresses, they may begin to behave in ways that other people find difficult to understand. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of living with dementia, both for the person with the condition and those around them.

How does dementia change a person's behaviour?

It is often hard to separate the signs of sight or hearing loss from those of dementia, and often one condition may mask the other.

Sight and hearing loss with dementia

Many people with dementia experience changes in how they understand the world around them. This can include misperceptions and misidentifications, hallucinations, delusions and time-shifting.

How can dementia change a person's perception?

Understanding and supporting a person with dementia

Gaining a better understanding of what it is like to live with dementia can help you support someone with the condition to live well.

Find out more
Dementia Support Line
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