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Six surprising symptoms of dementia

Patsy Westcott / 26 August 2015 ( 12 May 2017 )

These early signs of dementia may not seem serious, but if you experience any or all of them, it might be worth asking your GP for a dementia test.

Changes in taste, for example a sudden sweet tooth, could be a sign of dementia.
Changes in taste, for example a sudden sweet tooth, could be a sign of dementia.

Getting lost in time and space

Can’t remember what time of day it is? We all lose track of time occasionally if we’re absorbed in a task but if it’s happening often, or you or a family member get lost in familiar surroundings, it could be a sign of dementia.  

GP devices for dementia

Forgetting how to use the washing machine

The ability to follow a sequence of tasks is part of what experts call executive function. People with Alzheimer’s often lose this ability because they are unable to prioritise the various steps. So if someone starts to find it hard to do familiar tasks such as working the washing machine, the microwave, or power tools it may be a symptom of dementia. 

Practical tips to help loved ones retain as much independence as possible in the early stages of dementia

Not paying bills on time

A reduced ability to plan and think ahead (impaired executive function) is a key dementia symptom. Letting bills mount up (in someone who has previously paid on time), a sudden lottery habit or other impulsive financial decisions could be a clue. 

Waking up and not smelling the coffee

Loss of smell can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s (and dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease) according to a recent review in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences. The study recommends that olfactory (smell) tests are used to screen people at high risk of dementia. 

Anosmia: when your sense of smell stops working

A sudden love of biscuits

Changes in taste, for example a sudden sweet tooth, could be another sign of dementia. A preference for sweets is a common feature of what’s called frontotemporal dementia.

Learn more about different types of dementia

Taking a nap

Changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping more (hypersomnia), insomnia, broken sleep, daytime napping and night-time waking are all associated with dementia.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.