Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in cognitive function that interferes with a person’s daily life. There are several types of dementia, and the early signs can vary significantly. Often the signs are subtle enough to go unnoticed or become temporarily justifiable until symptoms become more severe.
Although the initial signs of dementia vary, there can be some differences in how these signs manifest in each gender. It’s important to note that these differences are not absolute and can vary widely among individuals. There are some common early symptoms that apply to both men and women.
Common early signs of dementia in men and women include:
- Memory loss
- Communication problems
- Reduced concentration
- Changes in problem-solving and planning
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty with motor skills
- Mood and personality changes
- Difficulty coping with everyday tasks
Let’s take a look at each of these signs in detail and compare how they can sometimes present differently in men compared to women:
Men and women may both have trouble remembering recent events, appointments, or important information. However, differences may arise in the types of memories affected. For example, some research suggests that men may have more trouble with spatial and location-related memory, while women may have more difficulty with verbal memory.
A middle-aged man may repeatedly forget where he placed his car keys or where he parked his car in the car park, even though he used to remember this effortlessly. Whereas an older woman may struggle to recall the names of her grandchildren or may ask the same question multiple times.
Both genders may have difficulties with finding the right words in conversation, following or joining discussions, or repeating themselves.
Men may exhibit more pronounced language difficulties sooner, such as trouble with sentence construction. Women may rely on non-verbal communication to compensate. For example, a man may have difficulty articulating his thoughts or could lose his train of thought. He may struggle to find the right words and may repeat himself when speaking. In comparison, a woman may pause mid-sentence when talking, searching for the right word or struggling to convey her ideas clearly.
Changes in problem-solving and planning
Both men and women with dementia may struggle with tasks that require organisation, problem-solving, or planning.
Some studies suggest that men may exhibit more pronounced difficulties in complex problem-solving tasks, while women may struggle more with everyday planning and organisation.
Disorientation and confusion
Both genders may become disoriented in once familiar places, forget the date or time, or get lost.
Women might show more emotional distress and anxiety when faced with disorientation, while men may react with anger or frustration.
Mood and personality changes
Both men and women may experience mood swings, irritability, or changes in personality.
Men may become more aggressive or withdrawn, while women may exhibit increased anxiety, depression, or social withdrawal.
Difficulty with motor skills
Both genders may struggle with tasks that require co-ordination and fine motor skills. This includes tasks like buttoning shirts/blouses where they may mismatch the buttonholes. They may also have trouble with fine motor skills when using utensils or tying shoelaces.
It is very important to remember that dementia affects individuals differently, and these gender-based differences are general tendencies rather than strict rules. Additionally, factors like age, genetics, pre-dementia skills/abilities, and overall health can influence the presentation of dementia symptoms.
The underlying reasons for these differences in symptom presentation between men and women are not fully understood. It’s likely that a combination of biological, hormonal, and societal factors contributes to these variations. For example, differences in brain structure and function, hormonal changes during menopause, and societal expectations around communication and emotional expression may all play a role.
Regardless of gender, if you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of dementia, it’s crucial to seek medical evaluation and support as early as possible. Early diagnosis and intervention can help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with dementia and their caregivers.
All the care homes in the Future Care Group consortium boast Dementia Leads who ensure that our residents with dementia live the most fulfilling, enriched, dignified life possible during their stay with us. We tailor activities, nutrition, care, and therapy to each individual’s bespoke needs and preferences.
More information about our Dementia care offering can be found on our website.