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22 Clues™ to the Dementias

Updated: May 5, 2023

For decades, ten warning signs have been widely publicized and, for the most part, embraced by many as the only list for middle-aged and older adults to recognize signs of possible degenerative cognitive impairment. While serving an important purpose for years, this narrow Alzheimer's-focused "top ten" checklist is now outdated and may contribute to missing some fairly common signs of a Dementia.

The top four Dementias include Alzheimer's, Vascular, Lewy Body, and Frontotemporal, and still, there are many more conditions and disorders that fall under the big umbrella of Dementia - with new subtypes being researched each year. In addition, there are times when pathologies overlap, and when they do, someone is often said to be living with Mixed Dementia. So, it's time to retire the old and incomplete list.

After extensive research, the Dementia Society of America® believes that there are at least 22 Clues™ worth following up on by individuals, families, and medical professionals. This deeper and more comprehensive list includes:

  1. Short-Term Memory Loss & Repetitive Behaviors

  2. Problems with Tasks, Planning & Organizing

  3. Believing It's Another Time & Place

  4. Difficulty with Senses Like Smell, Taste, Vision & Hearing

  5. Challenges with Word Finding

  6. Getting Lost in Familiar Places

  7. Poor Judgement

  8. Sad or Withdrawn

  9. Swearing, Disinhibition & Aggression

  10. Changes in Gait, Walking, or Balance

  11. Lacking Self-awareness of Impairments

  12. Tremors & Jerkiness

  13. Apathy & Hygiene Problems

  14. Uncontrollable Crying & Laughing

  15. Changes in Handwriting

  16. Hallucinations and Delusions

  17. Fabrication of Stories

  18. REM Disorder & Other Sleep Issues

  19. Rapid Onset of Symptoms

  20. Bowel or Urinary Incontinence

  21. Drooping Eyelids

  22. Heightened Anxiety

As important as it is to understand that not all Dementias are Alzheimer’s disease, it is equally important to realize that experiencing one or more of these signs and symptoms does not necessarily indicate a Dementia. These symptoms can be caused by sleep irregularities, medications, vitamin deficiencies, mood disorders, infections, trauma, other disease processes, and more.

If you notice these changes in yourself or a loved one, see a doctor. They may want to review your history, administer a cognitive screening, conduct laboratory tests, and other diagnostic approaches to understand the underlying conditions producing symptoms.

Read our latest publication, The Big Umbrella™.

Contributor: Karen R. Ogden, team member, Dementia Society of America.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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