The 10 warning signs

warning signs

The early signs and symptoms of dementia can be subtle and hard to recognise.

Many conditions, such as stroke, depression and infections, as well as normal ageing, can cause dementia-like symptoms. It’s important not to assume any changes are due to dementia.

It’s very important to see a GP if you have concerns that you or someone you know may have dementia. If the symptoms are caused by a treatable condition, they can be diagnosed and treated.

If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis means early access to support, information, and any appropriate medication will be available, and there will be time to plan for the future.


Ten warning signs of dementia

1. Recent memory loss that affects daily life

  • It’s normal to forget meetings, names or telephone numbers occasionally and then remember them later.
  • A person with dementia might have trouble remembering recent events.

2. Difficulty performing regular tasks

  • It’s normal to make a wrong turn occasionally while driving.
  • Someone with dementia might have regular difficulty driving a familiar route.

3. Problems with language

  • Many people have trouble finding the right words sometimes.
  • But someone with dementia might have difficulty following, or initiating a conversation.

4. Disorientation of time and place

  • It is normal to occasionally forget what day it is or where you are going
  • A person with dementia may be confused about the time of day, and what is appropriate for that time.

5. Decreased or poor judgment

  • Making a bad decision once in a while is normal.  
  • A person with dementia might make bad decisions more frequently and start paying less attention to their physical appearance.

6. Problems with abstract thinking

  • It’s normal to have difficulty balancing a budget.
  • A person with dementia might completely forget what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.

7. Misplacing things

  • Anyone can misplace their wallet or keys.
  • A person with dementia might repeatedly put things in inappropriate places.

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

  • Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time.
  • A person with dementia can have rapid mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in personality

  • People's personalities can change a little with age
  • A person with dementia might have problems in social situations they have previously been comfortable with.

10. Loss of initiative

  • It is normal for people to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations.
  • A person with dementia may no longer initiate things that they once enjoyed. 


Based on Ten Warning Signs, Alzheimer's Australia

If you are worried that you or someone you know is showing signs of dementia, see your GP for a full assessment.


For information and support, contact your local Alzheimers organisation.