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Early Signs of Memory Loss
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Early Signs & Symptoms of Memory Loss

February 22, 2017

One of the first signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is short term memory loss. Your senior loved one might forget where they parked the car and not be able to find it. Or they may miss a physician’s appointment even if they’ve been reminded about it.

What Are the Signs Of Memory Loss in the Elderly?

Knowing what the early signs of memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s are is important for adult children and family caregivers. By reviewing this early signs of dementia checklist, you’ll be better able to understand your loved one’s mental state:


senior woman looking at camera

Forgetting Recently Learned Things

Everyone forgets things now and then. But if a loved one is regularly forgetting recently learned information (like appointments, dates or names) and not remembering those things later, it could be an early sign of dementia.


Difficulty Working With Numbers

Occasional errors balancing the checkbook are normal. Regularly misunderstanding numbers or measurements that are familiar (like quantities in a recipe) can be a memory loss symptom.

Inability to Complete Daily Tasks

Another early sign of Alzheimer’s is the inability to complete familiar tasks like putting clothes away in the correct drawers or remembering how to get to a friend or relative’s house.

Confusion About Time or Place

Everyone can confuse a day of the week from time to time. But people with dementia forget where they are or have trouble understand the passing of time or seasons.

Being Repetitive

Memory loss affects behavior, so early signs of Alzheimer’s can include repeating words, asking the same questions over and over, repeating tasks or obsessively collecting items.

Problems with Words

Another sign of dementia or memory loss symptom is a constant struggle with finding or using the right word or following or joining a conversation.

Losing the Ability to Find Things

People with memory loss will have difficulty putting things in the right place and then back-tracking to find those items. This confusion can also cause them to accuse others of stealing those objects.

Regular Lapses in Judgment


Making a bad decision once in a while is human error. But people with Alzheimer’s experience unusual lapses in judgment, such as changes in decision making about money management and personal hygiene.

Withdrawal From Social Activities

Early signs of Alzheimer’s can include a disconnection with social interaction and activity. People who begin to experience symptoms of memory loss may show a reluctance to joining in with activities that had been enjoyable in the past.

Personality Changes

While everyone has a bad day now and again, people with memory loss often experience changes in personality and mood. They can become easily upset when out of their comfort zone, or experience bouts of confusion, depression, fear and anxiety.

Is Memory Loss a Normal Part of Aging?

Occasional memory lapses are part of the normal aging process. The difference between normal forgetfulness and dementia is that dementia becomes disabling, affecting a person’s ability to speak, think abstractly or remember. Normal, age-related memory loss does not disrupt work, hobbies, social activities or relationships.

5 Warning Signs a Senior is Trying to Hide Memory Loss

A senior may be confused by the changes they are experiencing and worry about what will happen to them as their illness progresses. Elders often fear they will lose their independence if family members discover they have dementia. They often go to great lengths to hide early symptoms.

The signs a senior is trying to hide their memory loss include:

Denial of Memory Loss or Confusion

Seniors with dementia will deny that their memory is getting bad or that their confusion is anything unusual. They may make excuses, saying they are “just tired” or that occasional forgetfulness is normal at their age.

Withdrawal From Socialization 

Dementia causes irreversible damage to the brain. As the disease progresses, this may cause changes in personality. A senior with dementia may withdraw from activities they once enjoyed so that others won’t notice their memory loss or inability to perform familiar tasks.

Refusing to Let Loved Ones in Their House

The confusion brought on by dementia may cause a person with Alzheimer’s to struggle with activities of daily living. They may no longer be able to manage household duties such as cleaning, meal preparation, paying bills or balancing the checkbook. Seniors fear if they allow someone inside their home the neglect will become obvious. Adult children that come to visit are sometimes shocked at the poor living conditions of an older parent’s home. Senior living communities often see a spike in calls from frantic adult children after holidays when they discover what is really going on with a parent they thought was managing well.

Covering up Mistakes Behind the Wheel

It is common for older adults with dementia to remember the mechanics of how to drive but forget where they are going. Driving skills learned at an early age are part of an individual’s long-term memory. By contrast, awareness of current location and how to get back home falls under short-term memory. The latter type of memory is usually impacted first with Alzheimer’s.

Spousal Co-Dependence

Spouses of seniors with dementia often feel they must help hide symptoms of senior memory loss because their own independence is closely tied to their spouse’s. A husband or wife may complete a task or finish a sentence for their loved one to maintain the impression that everything is normal.

What To Do When Living at Home with Dementia Isn’t Safe

Seniors with dementia may be successful in hiding their symptoms for quite a while, especially when enabled by a spouse or other family member. When safety becomes an obvious issue, it is usually time to develop a strategy for the future.

The caring professionals at Elmcroft Senior Living can provide advice and guidance for signs of memory loss in elderly. Learn more about how our experienced dementia caregivers can help develop an individualized plan of care to help your senior loved one live the highest quality of life despite their disease. Interested in learning more? Read our resource on the difference between senility and dementia.

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