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What do the early stages of dementia look like?

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Quick Answer

The earliest symptom for dementia that clearly stands out is memory loss, according to WebMD. As things progress, patients have trouble recalling things that have happened recently and recognizing places and people. Eventually, tasks involving basic personal care fall by the wayside as the condition advances.

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Full Answer

The progression of dementia varies widely depending on the underlying cause and the part of the brain affected. Vascular dementia resulting from a progression of minor strokes often takes years to rob the patient of mental capabilities. If a major stroke that results from blockage of a major blood vessel causes dementia, the progression is often much more rapid, notes WebMD.

People with an early diagnosis of dementia often receive medical treatment that staves off progression for a period of time. Some people stay stable for months or even years without medication, while others show a swift decline. A lot of people suffering from dementia are unaware the decline is taking place, and they sometimes blame other people for their problems and deny the issue. Awareness is not always a blessing, as people who realize their own decline lose hope and develop depression, reports WebMD.

After a period of time, the patient's behavior sometimes gets out of control. Anger and agitation are not uncommon, but clingy and childlike behavior also occur. If the patient starts wandering off, keeping him at home becomes increasingly difficult. Over time, people with dementia have shorter life spans than average people, states WebMD.

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