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Dementia Symptoms in the Elderly

author image Lia Stannard
Lia Stannard has been writing about women’s health since 2006. She has her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and is pursuing a doctorate in clinical health psychology.
Dementia Symptoms in the Elderly
Nurse with woman in wheelchair at home. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Dementia is a disorder that is rare for people under the age of 60; the risk of dementia increases with age. The causes of dementia can be degenerative disease, like Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, which cannot be treated. However, dementia caused by brain tumors, metabolic causes, infections, low vitamin B12, normal pressure hydrocephalus and thyroid can be treated, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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Sleep Patterns

Elderly patients with dementia have problems with sleep and changes in their sleep patterns. Examples of changed sleep patterns include a change in the sleep-wake cycle, insomnia and the need for more sleep. Patients who feel the need for more sleep may also have fatigue.


Dementia can lead to problems with learning and problem solving. Besides a decrease in problem solving skills and judgment, learning disorders can also occur. Examples include trouble making calculations, and the inability to learn or think abstractly.


Language skills can also be affected by dementia. Ability can range from poor language to total lack of ability to communicate. Types of language problems that can arise from dementia include the inability to form words, name objects, read or write, speak without muscle paralysis happening and understand language.


Memory issues are also common in dementia patients. Both long-term memory and short-term memory problems can occur; however, memory problems become increasingly worse as the dementia progresses.

Motor Skills

Motor skills can become impaired as dementia develops. Patients will have changes in their gait, as well as hindered skilled motor functions.

Personality Changes

Personality changes are a noticeable symptom of dementia in the elderly. Behavior changes may start suddenly, or gradually become worse. Types of personality changes include anxiety, depression, a decreased interest in daily activities, inappropriate mood or behavior, irritability, reduced emotional expression, a self-centered attitude, poor temper control and withdrawal from social interaction.

Additional Symptoms

Other symptoms that are associated with dementia include changes in feeling or perception, disorientation, impaired recognition, hallucinations and delusions, severe confusion and lack of concentration.

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