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Dementia and Alzheimer’s are cruel, life-changing diseases for which there is no cure, but early detection could slow their progression. The only problem is, many people don’t know what to look for.

Of course, the first thing most people think of is memory problems, but in reality, early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s could be totally different. Any behavioural change as we get older is a red flag, but here are seven in particular that may indicate the disease is in its early stages.

1. Stealing – In people with frontotemporal dementia, their executive function (ability to make decisions) can be affected, making it more difficult to understand right from wrong, potentially leading to law-breaking behaviour.

2. Falls – Falls aren’t particularly in common in older people, but a recent study found a correlation between frequent falls and the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Forgetting an object’s use – We’ve all forgotten where we put out keys before, but when you can’t remember what a key is actually used for or the function of a TV remote, you could have a problem – this may be an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

4. Strange eating habits – Prior to diagnosis, people with Alzheimer’s tend to eat much more than their healthy counterparts. Sometimes, their appetite can even extend to inanimate objects, potentially as a result of Alzheimer’s or dementia affecting memory and how the brain processes hunger signals.

5. Difficulty recognising sarcasm – Have you been saying the words “I was being sarcastic” to your loved one more than usual? This could be an indicator of frontotemporal dementia. A recent study found that sufferers’ posterior hippocampus (the part of the brain where short-term memory is stored) is affected by the disease, making them unable to identify sarcasm.

6. Depression – Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world, and most of the time, it’s just that. However, one study found that people who suffered depression after 50 were three times more likely to develop vascular dementia than those who didn’t. So ensure you receive treatment as soon as possible.

7. Staring vacantly – If you constantly catch your loved one staring vacantly into the distance, not focused on anything in particular, they might need a check-up. Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to become unfocused, and this is often reflected with unfocused staring.