Is Repeating Yourself a Sign of Dementia?

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It is not unusual to have occasional lapses in memory or to make minor errors in daily life — we are only human after all. Forgetfulness is also something that can happen more frequently as we get older and is a normal part of aging. However, if you or your loved one are beginning to experience memory loss or thinking problems that interfere with daily life and the ability to complete everyday tasks, this may be a sign of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or early-stage dementia.

The early signs of dementia can present differently in different people and may vary depending on the type of dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia or vascular dementia). These can often be very subtle, gradual changes in a person’s mood, behavior or cognitive abilities that are not necessarily noticeable at first.

There are 10 common early warning signs of dementia, which include:

  1. Memory loss or memory problems that disrupt daily life
  2. Confusion and disorientation with time and place
  3. Difficulty recognising and understanding visual images and spatial relations
  4. Misplacing things
  5. Problems with abstract thinking skills, planning and solving problems
  6. Impaired or poor judgment
  7. Difficulty performing familiar tasks in daily life at work, at home or at leisure
  8. Problems with language and a decline in communication skills
  9. Changes in mood, behavior and personality
  10. Loss of initiative, withdrawal from work or regular activities, and social isolation

Is repeating yourself a sign of dementia?

Yes, repeating yourself could be a sign of dementia. People with dementia often experience problems with their short-term memory and may forget things they have said before, or the answers to their questions. This may lead them to repeat stories, comments, questions and even behaviors without realizing. Another reason that people with dementia may repeat themselves is because of language difficulties (e.g., becoming stuck on a certain word or phrase, or they may wish to have a conversation and be unable to think of anything else to say). Depending on what the person is repeating, they may be trying to communicate a specific need or emotion. They could be seeking a particular response from others in order to feel understood, comfortable or safe. While it may be frustrating for others to have such repetitive conversations, there are some useful strategies to help you navigate the conversation to identify and meet the needs of the person.

Is humming a sign of dementia?

Possibly. Humming is an example of a repetitive behavior that someone with early-stage dementia may exhibit. Repetitive behaviors are a common symptom of frontotemporal dementia, but such behavioral changes would likely also be accompanied by other noticeable changes to a person’s language and thinking abilities.

Is leaving cupboard doors open a sign of dementia?

Possibly. Leaving cupboard doors open is an example of forgetful or distracted behavior that someone with early-stage dementia may exhibit. The reasons behind this behavior may stem from simply forgetting they have left the door open after getting something out. If the person often opens multiple cupboards and drawers looking for something, it may be that they have misplaced a particular item or have forgotten what is kept in the cupboards and drawers. In fact, rummaging or searching through cupboards and drawers is another common behavioral symptom of dementia, so leaving the doors open could be part of this behavior.

Is anger a sign of dementia?

Possibly. Anger, agitation and aggressive behavior are all common symptoms of dementia which may be caused by the person feeling physical discomfort, frustration due to inability to communicate effectively, or by other environmental factors that lead them to feel confused or overwhelmed. However, irritability can also be a symptom of many other conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression and chronic pain. If a person is uncharacteristically angry or expresses anger and aggression more frequently in response to things that would usually not bother them, it could be a sign of a physical or mental health problem, including dementia. It is important to consider any other symptoms that may be experiencing. 

Is paranoia a sign of dementia?

Yes. It is common for people with dementia to experience paranoia — a type of delusion (or strongly held false belief) in which the person believes that others are lying or “out to get them.” This can make the person with dementia suspicious, fearful or jealous of the people around them. For example, they may believe that someone is stealing from them, that they are being followed or that their partner has been unfaithful. The reason behind this sense of paranoia is that the person may be unable to put memories and pieces of information together correctly, leading them to draw false conclusions. A common example of this is when a person misplaces an item of value to them and when they cannot find it, believe that someone has stolen it. Paranoia in dementia is often linked to memory loss and can become worse as the disease progresses. This is why paranoia is more often a symptom of later stage dementia than an early-warning sign.

Next Steps If You or a Loved One Has Signs of Dementia

If you’ve noticed a change in yourself or your loved one that aligns with one or more of the early warning signs of dementia discussed in this article, don’t panic — but do consider seeking help. Many conditions can cause symptoms similar to dementia, and whatever the cause may be, an early diagnosis can mean there are more options available to you for interventions, treatment and planning ahead. So, it is important to seek advice from a medical professional who can help make an accurate diagnosis and guide you through what comes next.

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If you have noticed these changes in someone else, you should encourage them to see their doctor to find out what’s happening. This can be a difficult conversation to have with someone but there are some handy tips available here to help you start the conversation.

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