Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia symptoms differ depending on which parts of the brain are affected and the stage of the disease. The most common symptoms include:

  • Memory loss, including trouble with directions and familiar tasks
  • Language problems, such as trouble getting words out or understanding what is said
  • Difficulty with planning, organizing, concentration and judgment, including not being able to recognize the symptoms in oneself
  • Changes in behavior and personality

How dementia affects the brain

The brain controls all the workings of the mind and body. Some parts of the brain control memory and language. Other parts control movement and coordination. With dementia, nerve cells in the brain are gradually damaged or destroyed. Why this happens is not yet clear. But over time, parts of the brain begin to atrophy (shrink). Brain atrophy often starts in the part of the brain that controls memory, reasoning and personality. Other parts of the brain may not be affected until much later in the illness.

The stages of dementia

Dementia is a progressive disease. This means it gets worse over time. Symptoms differ for each person, but there are three basic stages. Each stage may last from months to years:

  1. Early stage: A person may seem forgetful, confused or have changes in behavior. However, he or she may still be able to handle most tasks without help.
  2. Middle stage: More and more help is needed with daily tasks. A person may have trouble recognizing friends and family members, wander or get lost in familiar places. He or she may also become restless or moody.
  3. Late stage: Alzheimer’s can cause severe problems with memory, judgment and other skills. Help is needed with nearly every aspect of daily life.