The early signs of dementia in women include memory loss and confusion.

Dementia is a collective term that describes various symptoms of cognitive decline, such as forgetfulness, confusion, and changes in behavior. It is not a specific disease but a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment.

Dementia is more common in females than males. Potential factors contributing to the differences between genders are longevity, hormones, and genetic predispositions, but the definitive reason is unknown.

However, despite these differences, the signs and symptoms of dementia in women are generally the same as those in other genders. Early signs of dementia in women may include memory loss, difficulty with problem-solving, and changes in behavior and personality.

This article explores the early signs of dementia in women, when to contact a doctor, and treatment options.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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In the early stages of dementia, people may still maintain a degree of independence. They may continue to drive, work, and participate in social activities. However, they may notice subtle memory lapses and cognitive difficulties impacting their daily lives.

It might only be those close to the individual who notice the subtle differences or through diagnostic evaluations by healthcare professionals.

Common early signs of dementia include:

  • Memory lapses: Forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
  • Difficulty with names: Struggling to remember names when meeting new people.
  • Task performance issues: Finding it challenging to perform tasks in social or work settings.
  • Forgetting recent information: Losing track of material that was just read.
  • Misplacing valuables: Frequently losing or misplacing valuable objects.
  • Trouble planning or organizing: Increased difficulty with planning or organizing activities.

What is dementia?

Dementia is not a single disease but a collection of symptoms characterized by a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life. It damages brain cells, affecting their communication ability and impairing thinking, behavior, and feelings.

Several diseases can cause dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common. Other types include:

Early diagnosis and intervention can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life, although no cure exists.

Learn more about dementia.

Dementia symptoms progress over time, becoming more pronounced and impacting various aspects of an individual’s life. The progression divides into early, middle, and late stages.

Middle-stage dementia is typically the most prolonged phase, lasting for several years. During this stage, individuals with dementia will need more assistance with daily activities and care.

  • Memory loss: This includes increasing forgetfulness of events or personal history.
  • Mood changes: Individuals may become moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations.
  • Confusion: A person may have difficulty recalling personal information like addresses, telephone numbers, and educational background.
  • Disorientation: A person may experience confusion about location or time.
  • Decision-making: Individuals need help choosing appropriate clothing for the season or occasion.
  • Bladder and bowel control: This includes trouble controlling the bladder and bowels.
  • Sleep disturbances: Changes in sleep patterns can happen, such as sleeping during the day and being restless at night.
  • Wandering: An increased tendency to wander may happen.
  • Behavioral changes: This includes personality and behavioral shifts such as suspiciousness, delusions, or compulsive behaviors like hand-wringing or tissue shredding.

In the final stage of dementia, symptoms become severe, and individuals require extensive care.

  • Dependence: When a person needs around-the-clock assistance with daily personal care.
  • Memory loss: When there is a loss of awareness of recent experiences and surroundings.
  • Physical decline: A person may experience a decline in physical abilities, including walking, sitting, and swallowing.
  • Communication difficulties: They may have difficulty communicating, though they may still say words or phrases.
  • Infection vulnerability: They may have an increased susceptibility to infections, particularly pneumonia.

If someone has problems remembering recent events or feels confused, they should talk with a health professional. Likewise, if a friend or family member notices these issues, they should seek medical advice.

A doctor may ask the individual questions and perform various tests to determine the cause of the symptoms. They may also refer the person to a specialist, such as a neurologist, for further assessment.

Dementia arises from damage to brain cells, disrupting their communication abilities. This interferes with a person’s thinking, behavior, and emotions.

Each brain region handles specific functions such as memory, judgment, and movement. When cells in a particular region become damaged, that area cannot perform its tasks effectively.

Different types of dementia are linked to specific brain cell damage in particular regions. For example, Alzheimer’s disease involves high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells, making it difficult for these cells to remain healthy and communicate.

The hippocampus, responsible for learning and memory, is one of the first areas affected, leading to early memory loss.

Several risk factors can contribute to the development of dementia, including:

  • Age: Risk increases with age.
  • Genetics: Family history can play a role.
  • Lifestyle and heart health: Issues with cardiovascular health can increase the risk.
  • Brain injury: Traumatic brain injuries can contribute to dementia.


Diagnosing dementia involves several steps:

  • Medical history review: This usually includes evaluating symptoms and family history.
  • Physical examination: This includes checking overall health and identifying potential causes for symptoms.
  • Cognitive and neuropsychological tests: These include assessing memory, problem-solving, and language skills.
  • Imaging tests: MRI or CT scans are used to look for brain abnormalities.
  • Laboratory tests: Blood tests are used to rule out other conditions.

Learn more about diagnosing dementia.


While there is no cure for dementia, various treatments can help manage symptoms:

  • Medications: Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine are approved for treating dementia and may help slow progression.
  • Therapy: Cognitive stimulation and occupational therapy can improve function.
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and mental stimulation can support brain health.

The outlook for individuals with dementia depends on the type and stage of the disease. While dementia is progressive and currently has no cure, early intervention can improve quality of life and slow symptom progression.

People with dementia can live for many years after diagnosis. Treatments and lifestyle changes help manage symptoms and maintain daily functioning. On average, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease live about 4 to 8 years after symptoms become noticeable.

While dementia is not always preventable, certain lifestyle choices may help reduce the risk:

  • Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Engage in regular physical activity.
  • Keep the mind active through learning and social activities.
  • Manage general health by controlling weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes and treating hearing problems.
  • Stay mentally active and remain connected with family and friends.
  • Take care of mental and physical health, and try to get good sleep.
  • Drink less alcohol and stop tobacco use.

Learn more about dementia prevention.

Dementia is a complex and multifaceted condition that requires early detection and proactive management.

Recognizing the early signs of dementia in women, such as memory lapses and confusion, should prompt medical attention.

Through medical treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and supportive care, individuals with dementia can maintain a better quality of life and potentially slow the progression of the disease.