Dementia Insights: The Early Stages

Dementia often begins with symptoms and signs that are mild and correspondingly difficult to spot.


Dementia often begins with symptoms and signs that are mild and correspondingly difficult to spot.

The Early Stages of Dementia

Dementia is a very individual condition, affecting people in different ways and with different rates of progression. It often begins with symptoms and signs that are mild and correspondingly difficult to spot. They can also take time to develop, perhaps over a couple of years.


The most frequently encountered early signs of dementia include the memory problems which many people associate with the condition. Commonly, someone may start to struggle to remember things that have happened to them quite recently. They may also begin to lose things during their everyday lives. For example, they may struggle to locate common items at home, like keys or glasses. Memory loss is considered to be the main early symptom in Alzheimer’s disease, though this may vary for other forms of the dementia.

Another early sign of dementia is a decreased capacity for problem solving and decision making, especially involving complex issues, such as finances. There may be an element of confusion, especially when trying to make plans.

Language & Communication

Problems with language and communication may also begin to crop up in the early stages of dementia. For example, someone may find themselves unable to find the right word in a conversation or may repeat themselves several times in a short period of time. They may also begin to struggle to absorb what others are saying, or follow a conversation. Again, struggling with speech can vary between different forms of dementia and can help differentiate between them.

Disorientation & Perception Issues

In the early stages of dementia, it’s not uncommon for someone to suddenly find themselves unable to recognise where they are. This might result in them getting lost, or feeling they are lost, even in a place that is very familiar to them. Closely related are difficulties with visual judgement. For example there can be problems judging distances in previously familiar surroundings, such as staircases.

Moods & Emotions

In the early stages of dementia, someone may become noticeably anxious, or sad. They can also become short-tempered of irritable, often in response to their condition and the limitations it is placing on them. An understandable tendency to become depressed by their situation can also lead to them being noticeably withdrawn and lacking in confidence.  They may also lose interest in hobbies or people.

Although major changes in behaviour are not common during the early stages of dementia, there are some forms of the condition that can reduce inhibitions and lead to socially inappropriate activities.

Support Someone During The Early Stages Of Dementia

During the early stages of dementia, many people are able to stay largely independent, with just a limited amount of assistance with their daily living. At this time, it pays to focus on what the person can still do and support them as they learn to cope with the condition. Too much input at this stage can be detrimental. Instead, look to work in partnership with the person, helping them to develop  a routine, reminder lists and prompts, and use technology, all of which can help them to manage their lives more effectively.

It’s Time For Longer-Term Planning

During the early stage of dementia, it’s a good time to make important plans for the future. The person with dementia will still have the ‘mental capacity’ to carry out important tasks, such as making a Lasting power of attorney (LPA). They can also make advance decisions and advance statements that will ensure their wishes and preferences are made clear.

Social & Support Links

Here at Bluebird, we are involved with Calderdale Dementia Friendly Community (CDFC) an organisation that wants to support groups and organisations to help make Calderdale a dementia-friendly borough. Find out more about them on their website

You can find local memory cafés (also known as a dementia café), on the Alzheimer's Society website – meet other people with dementia and their carers in an informal drop-in setting to share advice, tips and support

Song: Try the Singing for the Brain groups run by the Alzheimer’s Society – singing is known to improve mood and wellbeing and is also great fun

The Alzheimer's Society offers support near you and Age UK offers social activities for what's available in your area.

Home Care

If you need more support, following your dementia diagnosis, home care can help. Living in your own home is the preferred option of many people with dementia and has obvious benefits in helping you to maintain a familiar environment and day-to-day routine. At Bluebird, we offer a full range of home care, from occasional visits, through to live-in care and respite care. Find out more on our website: /