Identifying early signs of dementia

There is no single cause of dementia, but being vigilant about changes in your daily life and recognising the possible symptoms is a key factor in early detections.

The onset of dementia can be subtle and sometimes the symptoms may not be immediately obvious (or they may be subtle enough that you’d like to deny that they’re there!) Many people are hesitant to turn their worrying suspicions into a diagnosis. However, by getting an early diagnosis from a doctor, you’re able to get the support you need to continue to live well with dementia.

To help you detect if you or someone you know may have dementia, we’ve compiled a list of the five most common early symptoms to keep an eye out for:

Memory loss

Memory loss is the most common symptom associated with dementia. Those with dementia may find themselves forgetting recently learned information, have a heavy reliance on memory aids, or will ask for the same information repetitively. Misplacing items and the frequent inability to retrace steps is another common sign of memory loss.


An individual with dementia may find themselves getting confused about where they are, even while in a familiar location, or may be confused about how they got there in the first place. Others may lose track of what day or season it is and are unable to eventually figure it out.

Problems with words

Whether problems with speaking or writing, words can be a challenge for some people with dementia. They may find themselves in situations where they stop mid conversation as they are unable to continue or find themselves repeating sentences. Others may have frequent difficulty with vocabulary and finding the correct word for objects, such as calling an oven a food heater.

Difficulty completing daily tasks

What was once a routine task may become hard to complete when someone has dementia, as they can forget the process or get distracted during the activity. This could include anything from driving to a familiar location to remembering how to use a microwave, or remembering the rules of a favourite card game.

Unusual changes in mood

Frequent and erratic mood changes are common with people who have dementia. They may become confused, depressed, anxious, and surprised – especially when in environments that are out of their comfort zone or away from their daily routine. A person with dementia may also remove themselves from hobbies, social activities and work that they previously enjoyed due to these changes in mood.

Why early diagnosis is key – and how to get help.

In the Auckland region alone, more than 15,000 people are living with dementia. It’s vital that, if you believe you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of dementia, you go to see your doctor to get diagnosed. There are many benefits of early diagnosis, in particular the ability to utilise tools to slow the progress of dementia and to get the support you need that will help you or your loved ones continue to live well.