Symptoms develop when the underlying condition affects areas of the brain involved with learning, memory, decision-making, and language.

Memory impairment is often the first symptom to be noticed. Someone with dementia may be unable to remember ordinary information, such as their birth date and address, and may be unable to recognize friends and family members.

There is progressive decline in these cognitive functions as well:

  • Decision making
  • Judgment
  • Orientation in time and space
  • Problem solving
  • Verbal communication

Behavioral changes may include the following:

  • Eating, dressing, toileting (e.g., unable to dress without help; becomes incontinent)
  • Interests (e.g., abandons hobbies)
  • Routine activities (e.g., unable to perform household tasks)
  • Personality (e.g., inappropriate responses, lack of emotional control)

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 01 Dec 2014