These are some of the signs that you might see in someone with early stage dementia.
Dementia is a progressive condition that gets gradually worse over time. There is currently no cure or treatment that slows its progression down.
When someone is diagnosed with dementia, they and their family often want to know how it will progress. However, it is impossible to say how long each stage will last.
For many people, the early stage will last for months or years, but it may progress rapidly, although this is rare.
The progression of dementia will depend on many factors, including:
- the person’s age
- how soon they received a diagnosis after the onset of symptoms
- the type of dementia
- their current physical and mental health
- lifestyle factors like diet and exercise
Because the progression of dementia varies so much between people, it is better to focus on enjoying the present moment rather than on trying to predict when or how their condition will progress.
In the early stage of dementia, the person will start to experience problems that affect their everyday living.
The person may notice these early changes themselves, or they may first be recognised by their family, friends or colleagues.
While some people may not think it is necessary to see their doctor at this stage, it’s important to do so as soon as possible so the right support can be put in place early on.
In the early stages of most forms of dementia – including Alzheimer’s disease – the person may have mild problems with their concentration and memory. However, in some forms of dementia eg frontotemporal dementia, the person’s memory may be unchanged.
While their short-term memory and recall of recent events may be affected, their memories of childhood and their early life may remain very clear.
This may mislead people into thinking the person’s memory is okay – but if family, friends or colleagues spend some time with the person, it may become apparent that they are repeating themselves or asking the same questions again and again.
Mum was forgetting things at work and kept being let go from jobs. When I asked her why, she said she couldn’t keep up. She also forgot my birthday, which was really unlike her.
– Family carer
In early stage dementia, people may begin to get lost in familiar places due to difficulties in orientation and a loss of recognition of cues that they usually rely on, such as road signs, road layout and landmarks.
They may find it hard to judge distances or hazards so they may trip more frequently, bump into things or have difficulty with driving skills like judging speed and parking.
I first noticed something wasn’t right during our dancing classes. My husband started forgetting steps to routines we had practised many times before. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t remember.
– Family carer
Family, friends and colleagues may be more aware of these changes than the person with dementia and this can cause some tension – for example, they may be resentful of other people’s concern or reluctant to visit the doctor.
If the person in the early stage of dementia is aware of the changes they are experiencing, they may feel frightened, worried, anxious and depressed about what is happening to them.
Their family and friends may also experience these emotions as they observe the changes in the person.
Although this can be a worrying time, it’s important to try to live in the moment rather than thinking too much about the future and how the person’s dementia will progress.
I’ve come to terms with my diagnosis now and we’ve found a new normal. My whole life doesn’t revolve around my diagnosis – it’s about living life to the fullest. I think it’s incredibly important to keep doing things you enjoy and make the most of life.
– Person living with dementia
To speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse about early stage dementia or any other aspect of dementia, please call our free Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm), email firstname.lastname@example.org or book a telephone or video call with an Admiral Nurse in our virtual clinics.