I’m a Doctor and These are Signs You Have Dementia

by Dr. Allison Reiss, as told to Matt Gillick 

With the U.S. getting older—the number of people aged 65 or older is expected to jump to 90 million by 2050—neurological conditions amongst the elderly become more common, dementia being one of the most prevalent. Dementia is the deterioration of intellectual or psychological functions generally caused by damage to the brain and aging. Over 6 million Americans aged 65+ live with the condition, a number projected to increase to 13.8 million by 2060. Because of this growing trend, older individuals and their families need to be aware of the warning signs that they may have dementia. 

Dr. Allison Reiss is the Head of the Inflammation Laboratory at N.Y.U. Langone Hospital, an Associate Professor of Medicine at N.Y.U.’s Long Island School of Medicine, and a member of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s Medical, Scientific, and Memory Screening Advisory Board. Using her decades-worth of experience in researching Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions, she listed the five most common warning signs that might indicate dementia. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.

Female doctor in mask making notes in medical card while talking to patient at hospital

Is there one specific examination or procedure that can lead to a dementia diagnosis? Simply put, no. There is no single test that will tell you or your doctor definitively whether a person has dementia or not. A diagnosis is made by excluding other causes for the symptoms combined with clinical judgment, so it might be beneficial to get a second opinion. The following are the most concerning indications that should prompt further evaluation by a licensed medical professional. 

Pensioner reading message on mobile phone

Memory loss that interferes with daily activities, especially with recent memory.

An old man touches his head. Headache. Alzheimer's disease

Lack of concentration and loss of ability to perform previously familiar tasks such as preparing lists, following recipes, and keeping track of finances.

Portrait of worried senior man sitting on sofa in living room

Difficulty in communicating, finding words, and following a conversation.

Grandmother and grandson separated by social distancing on park bench

Wandering and getting lost in familiar places.

Senior woman conducting an interview

Forgetting the names of loved ones or close friends.

Mature Woman In Consultation With Female Doctor Sitting On Examination Couch In Office

 After exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, you need to speak with your primary care physician, whether that is a family practice, internal medicine, or geriatrician. They will do an initial evaluation and likely refer you to a neurologist or psychiatrist for further testing. If they deem treatment is needed, they will design a treatment plan to fit your needs. 


Get help and support from loved ones. Listen to the guidance of your trusted healthcare provider. Seek information from reputable sources. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and several other non-profit organizations have a wealth of resources, and many wonderful people are there to offer help. Most importantly: Do not stop living! Keep active and involved and savor every precious day. 

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