The World Health Organization (WHO) is campaigning to start preparing the world now for what is expected to be three time the number of dementia patients by 2050.

Currently dementia is one of the biggest costs in health care with millions of people affected, including family caretakers who are facing the biggest burden with the upcoming increase in dementia cases (Alzheimer’s makes up the majority of dementia cases).

Although WHO is encouraging and helping to organize programs to raise awareness and offer support to caregiving family members, one of their other goals is to start raising awareness now. Catching dementia symptoms early is an important part of treatment, and leaves both dementia patients and family members with more options.

Even in first world countries, the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages, when dementia symptoms are prominent. It can sometimes be harder for health workers to recognize early, subtle dementia symptoms than for close family members, so the need to raise awareness in the general public is important.

There are a variety of dementia symptoms that may appear as an early warning sign. Dementia symptoms must be present for at least 6 months to become diagnosable. Make sure that the potential dementia symptoms are a change in personality/new, and not just an old trait seen differently when paired with aging.

-Memory Loss, especially not forming new memories
-Sudden loss in speaking eloquence (difficulty remembering words)
-Change in ability to focus
-Trouble with problem solving
-As dementia symptoms progress, increasing incidences of being suddenly lost in time/place

After diagnosis, dementia symptoms often include depression & anxiety. It’s important to use an early diagnosis to talk about what care options are available, and to make plans for different possibilities. One of the main reasons that dementia patients become institutionalized is that they can develop behavioral problems and/or lose the ability to care for their own basic needs, like using the bathroom.

Treatable causes of dementia symptoms may be underdiagnosed, so ask for a full health work-up.

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