Dementia is a life-changing disease – but what are the key signs you need to watch for? Robert Mair reports.

The symptoms of dementia are easy to spot – but people with the condition may try to cover them up. Dementia is degenerative, meaning the symptoms get worse over time – but there are tell-tale signs that you should watch for:

Memory loss

This is the most commonly associated symptom with dementia. Usually it will affect short-term memory in early stages. This shouldn’t be confused with normal forgetfulness – such as forgetting someone’s name.

Language problems

Dementia sufferers can have problems finding the right words when speaking and writing. They may often forget simple words and use words that are out-of-place.

Loss of function

One of the most common ways people discover they have dementia is when they can no longer do an every day task. For example, a taxi driver might forget how to drive, or an electrician might forget how to wire a circuit box.

Confusion about setting

Knowing the road you live on or the day of the week is something we take for granted, but with dementia this could become difficult.

Change in personality

Dementia affects memory - and personality. Over time a person's personality can alter considerably, and small issues can result in extreme irritability.

Changes in behaviour and mood

Dementia is often mistaken for depression and those with the condition can appear low and dispirited. They may also experience rapid mood swings with no apparent cause, or they may become apathetic.

Loss of initiative

Similarly, a person with dementia may become listless, passive and show little interest in what’s going on around them. They may also sleep more than usual, and may no longer be interested in their favourite hobbies.

Misplacing things

We all misplace and lose things from time to time – especially objects such as keys and wallets. But we rarely put them in cupboards, shoes or the fridge – something people with dementia may do.

Poor judgement

People with dementia may get confused about issues such as the weather and how to dress – meaning they wrap up warm on a hot summer’s day and dress in very few layers in winter.

Problems with following conversations and track of tasks

Conversations may become difficult, as a person with dementia may become confused about the discussion or forget what they were talking about. Routine tasks, such as paying bills, may also be forgotten.