old asian man having coffee and looking out the window

Symptoms of dementia are a result of impairment in thinking skills such as memory, attention, orientation, judgement and language. These symptoms affect a person’s ability to live and function safely and independently, and which become progressively worse over time.

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing and is more than just forgetfulness. There are other lesser known symptoms that may suggest the onset of dementia.

Related: Warning Signs of Dementia

Poor or Decreased Judgement

elderly asian woman tastes her cooking at home

We make decisions all the time. Although everyone makes a bad decision once in a while, most of us are capable of weighing different factors and coming up with appropriate actions.

The ability to make judgement diminishes in people with dementia. They become less able to gather and make use of relevant information to make an informed decision and understand or anticipate the consequences. Examples include:

  • Personal safety — cross a busy road without looking out for traffic, get into a stranger’s car, or go to sleep with the stove on

  • Finances — give away money to strangers or refuse to pay bills

  • Social interaction — misjudge other’s intentions, behave inappropriately or being more tactless

  • Dressing and grooming — leave the house in pyjamas or refuse to maintain personal hygiene

With decreased judgement, dementia patients may put themselves at risk.

Related: Managing Agitation and Aggression in Dementia

Difficulty Doing Familiar Tasks

asian woman smiling as she happily feeds an elderly man

Most of us go about our routine day-to-day activities almost without thinking about them, for example, when we brush our teeth or make a cup of tea.

One of the symptoms of dementia is increasing difficulty in doing things that used to be easy and familiar. This could be due to various reasons such as being more forgetful and trouble in remembering or keeping track of sequences. Examples include:

  • Daily chores — wash vegetables after cooking them or put clean laundry into the washer instead of the wardrobe

  • Personal hygiene — shower without removing clothes

  • Orientation and sense of direction — being lost in an unfamiliar environment and having difficulty working out how to find their way home or think harder about the direction to take

These can lead to safety or health issues as the dementing illness progresses. More often than not, persons with dementia will need some form of assistance or supervision with daily routine activities.

Related: Managing Wandering Behaviour in Dementia

Problems with Communication and Understanding Information

asian man tries to explain something to an elderly asian woman who is listening attentively

Everyone has difficulty finding the right words at times, but if familiar words such as "toothbrush", "comb" or "fork" escape us more often than it should, then it could be a sign of dementia.

The language function in the brain deteriorates as dementia progresses. Communication becomes difficult as the person with dementia struggles to express his/her thoughts or comprehend information:

  • Forgetting words — especially common words used day-to-day

  • Difficulty in communicating thoughts — talk in a disorganised way or stop mid-way in a conversation

  • Problems with written language — may forget how to write certain words or find it hard to organise writing

  • Repetitive speech — repeat themselves or ask the same questions many times

As a result, some dementia patients can become more withdrawn as they have difficulty getting their thoughts across to people and understanding what is happening in the world around them.

Related: How to Communicate with a Loved One with Dementia

Dementia is Not Normal Ageing

asian woman sitting on a hospital bed with hands on top of each other looking upwards

The brain, like the body, ages and slows down as one gets older. You may become less alert or flexible mentally, or take a longer time to process information or recall facts. These are perfectly normal. There’s no need to​ panic if you notice yourself or your loved ones showing symptoms of forgetfulness or disorientation once in a while. You could just be tired, stressed or distracted from juggling multiple tasks.

However, people with dementia suffer from deteriorating thinking skills with noticeable changes in their behaviour that become a concern for themselves and people around them.

If you sense that your loved ones are acting out of character more often than not, and exhibit the symptoms described, then you may want to seek medical help for them early. The doctors will be able to rule out other treatable confounding factors mimicking as dementia symptoms (e.g. depression, vitamin deficiency) and provide a proper diagnosis. As with other diseases, early intervention always helps.


  1. Alzheimer’s Society. (2016, Mar). Communicating [Alzheimer’s Society].
    Retrieved Sept 2016 from https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=130

  2. Heerema, E. (2016, Jun 11). 6 Examples of How Poor Judgment Can Be a Sign of Early Dementia [VeryWell].
    Retrieved Sept 2016 from https://www.verywell.com/poor-judgment-and-alzheimers-disease-98564

  3. Dementia Guide. (2016, Nov 8). Symptom Library: Thinking & Judgement Symptoms [DementiaGuide].
    Retrieved Sept 2016 from http://dementiaguide.com/symptomlibrary/thinkingjudgement/judgment/

  4. Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). What Is Dementia? [Alz].
    Retrieved Sept 2016 from http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp

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