Dementia: Knowing the Signs

This week on Ask a NaviGuide, we chat with Kimberly Harp, one of our NaviGuides at United Church Homes. During the episode, Mike and Kimberly discuss signs of dementia. The conversation includes the differences between cognitive impairment and dementia, signs to look for with loved ones, resources available in answering questions, and more.
Play Video


Highlights from this week’s conversation include:

  • Cognitive impairment and dementia and the difference between the two (1:27)
  • Signs of dementia in your loved ones (3:46)
  • The importance of getting a diagnosis and treatment if you see signs of impairment (5:57)
  • Support and resources for dementia (9:18)
  • Final thoughts and conclusion (11:17)


Abundant Aging is a podcast series presented by United Church Homes. These shows offer ideas, information, and inspiration on how to improve our lives as we grow older. To learn more and to subscribe to the show, visit


Michael Hughes 00:00
Hi everyone and welcome to Ask an avid guide part of the abundant aging Podcast Series. I’m Mike, your host, and on this show we tackle subjects in aging and family caregiving that can be pretty stressful to work through. And we do this with tips and advice from United Church Homes naviguide team, got that out. Our naviguides have decades of experience helping families work through these issues. And we hope that what we share on this show will help everyone everywhere, age with abundance. Today, we’re lucky to have our naviguides Kimberly with us who will help us to decide or not decide to understand rather than get the intro out a pretty sensitive subject, I’d say, and that’s dementia. And really knowing the signs in do I have dementia? So before we get started, though, gotta read this statement. The opinions shared in this podcast are those are amazing and avid guides and are not meant to convey nor take the place of clinical Leaguer legal or other professional advice. Okay, so with all that being said, Hi, Kimberly.

Kimberly Harp 01:19
Hi, how are you doing? Pleasure to be here.

Michael Hughes 01:22
It’s great to have you here. And thanks so much for giving your time for this. So, okay, I’m going to kick this off with an important question. I’m the type of guy with a type of brain who gets into a project, let’s say I’m working on one of my cars or something like that. And I’m using a screwdriver, and then I’m putting it down and then a minute later, I need that screwdriver, and I forget where I put it on. So I’ve got dementia, right?

Kimberly Harp 01:51
No, the first most important thing that we need to realize here is that any kind of cognitive impairment or dementia is not a normal part of aging. I mean, someone in their 70s might not perform as well as someone in their 20s, for example, on a cognitive test, but they could do better in other areas, such as improved vocabulary if they’re an active reader. And according to Columbia University, 10% of individuals aged 65 and older, do have some form of dementia diagnosis, and individuals aged 65 and older. roughly 22% of them have mild cognitive impairment.

Michael Hughes 02:36
Okay, so that’s an important distinction, right? So we’ve got mild cognitive impairment and dementia. What’s the difference between the two?

Kimberly Harp 02:45
Yeah, so according to yell medicine, mild cognitive impairment is an early stage of memory loss, it’s not going to be occasional, you will experience symptoms almost daily, but it’s not going to be significant enough to impact your functions of daily living, you can still function and live independently, versus dementia. Those symptoms will impact your ability to perform daily activities, poor judgment, ability to communicate, just stuff like that is more significant and severe symptom wise with dementia.

Michael Hughes 03:22
Okay, so Well, first of all, that’s, I haven’t heard that a lot about the stats, right? So they probably vary from place to place, but at least for the one source is 10% of people age 65 Plus, will get dementia at some point, whether that’s 65 or 120, or whatever it might be. And then I’ve got a note here that oh, sorry, you said 22 to mild cognitive impairment. And that’s what the difference between that in dementia is that dementia will keep you from doing daily activities like walking or dressing or advocating for yourself or things like that.

Kimberly Harp 04:07
Yes. And I’ll give a random example of a scenario of the difference. Let’s say I have mild cognitive impairment. My son calls me Oh, mom. Wasn’t that the best weekend we had last week? My favorite time of the year is the fairs in town. I think that funnel cake was the best. My response would look like, oh, did we have a funnel cake? Oh, I didn’t remember. I bet that did taste good. You know, versus dementia. The response would look like, oh, we went to the fair last week and had that funnel cake. I don’t remember that. I also didn’t remember it was winter time. The fair does come in winter. Oh, you know, just some differences that are more impactful on your functions of daily living. Yeah, poor judgment skills, you know, with dementia, you’re far more vulnerable to accept scam calls, your ability to even carry on a conversation really is more impacted with dementia versus the mild cognitive impairment.

Michael Hughes 05:16
You know, I remember, I mean, because it’s not just seeing the signs in yourself, I’ve seen the signs in your loved ones, right? So if we’re telling, you know, for counting like a story like that, like we went to the fair with my mom, or, Oh, she didn’t remember, we had a funnel cake, versus she didn’t remember we went to the fair.

Kimberly Harp 05:39
Yeah, and a change of season, you know, your time and place will be impacted with dementia and even a person’s ability to recognize the person that’s been in your life or who you’re speaking to, you know, you could be driving down and not realize where you’re going. That’s what dementia looks like.

Michael Hughes 05:57
And that can be really scary, right? It can be really scary, because I think people kind of realize what’s going on, you know, or they’re reminded about what’s going on, and sort of the tension or saying, Oh, my gosh, why didn’t I remember that we had funnel cake, you know, versus Why didn’t I remember, we went to the fair, I mean, that can be pretty scary. I mean, I’ve, I heard a story from a friend and ones that when they visited her relatives, they saw all these post it notes from the phone or by the phone, and those were the little notes, that person hadn’t written down so that if somebody had called, they could be cute, or they could, so people, you know, are inclined to cover these things up, right? Or maybe that’s too generalistic. But many people might just try to put it off or hide it.

Kimberly Harp 06:51
Right? You know, some people could just sum it up to normal aging. And it’s important to realize that mild cognitive impairment is the median between the normal, just slowing down that comes with age, and dementia, the more significant symptoms you’re going to experience. And it’s very important to get it right, you know, keep track of what’s going on. Try to keep those notes, as you said, to label the track progressions here, so we can get the support that you need.

Michael Hughes 07:25
Yeah, and in knowing that look, mild, cognitive, 22%, dementia 10%, the odds are, this is perhaps not going to be happening to you. But it’s still important to kind of flag these things, because, well, I guess I’ll ask you what I mean, why is it important to see your doctor when you have these symptoms? I mean, what’s, why should you kind of really be proactive about this?

Kimberly Harp 07:55
Yes. Number one, proper diagnosis, good experience, cognitive impairment, and it might not be a true diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, it could be due to something like sleep apnea, depression, or stroke, you know, some cardiovascular issues that are prohibiting that blood flow to those regions in your brain, causing you to it’s affecting your thinking ability. You know, so you want a proper diagnosis, for sure.

Michael Hughes 08:22
And also, because you could get better. Yeah, it can’t it’s a thyroid problem, or, or sleep or something like that. That’s something that could get better and your cognition could improve.

Kimberly Harp 08:34
Yes, absolutely. That’s why Yeah, don’t be ashamed, tell your doctor, everything going on, have those evaluations. And if it’s, you know, something more significant, such as dementia, it’s very important to start tracking how often the symptoms are occurring, because you want to voice you know, you want your voice to be heard. And all of those preparations in place, because there are some treatments, not for dementia, but for its symptoms, and, you know, some mild cognitive improvement, or, excuse me, impairment, symptoms that can be slowed down. You know, there are treatments that can preserve those other regions of the brain from spreading so fast.

Michael Hughes 09:18
Yeah, I know, we hear about things like errors, and things like that. You know, and science is improving all the time. So personally, feeling hopeful about it, but no, that’s always just, it’s always a great reminder. You need that proper diagnosis.

Kimberly Harp 09:35
For Yeah, the support is what I like to advocate most because even if people feel like well, I don’t have any family. Nobody’s gonna help me. What’s the point? That’s what we’re here for. You know, that’s why we do this. These naviguides and just so many wonderful individuals out there that want to walk alongside you on this journey, because you’re not alone.

Michael Hughes 09:58
Yeah, and Dementia is not a normal part of aging. I love that you said that. We don’t have a guide or a resource. Just you know, Kimberly, I know that you’ve done a lot of work with the Alzheimer’s Association. Are there any resources out there that you think are good that people can go to learn more?

Kimberly Harp 10:17
Yeah, absolutely. The Alzheimer’s Association, for example, has a 24/7 hotline that anybody can call, you know, whether it’s the person who was wondering about a diagnosis has been diagnosed, but especially the caregivers, you know, we’re there, they’re there. For anybody who is just looking for that support. reassurance, they can provide you with local resources in your community, tell you how to go about getting those home and community based services to assist you and your loved one on this journey.

Michael Hughes 10:52
And it’s not just Alzheimer’s, right, if you have, you know, aphasia or Lewy Body, I mean, though, oh, yeah. I think that’s

Kimberly Harp 11:03
yeah, there’s even mild cognitive impairment resources from the Alzheimer’s Association that’s listed on their website. And those representatives are more than happy and willing to help.

Michael Hughes 11:14
And they do such a great job. Thank you for that. Well, this is going to wrap up this episode of Ask a NaviGuide. Kimberly, thank you so much for speaking on this subject. And we want to hear from you our listeners. So I’m gonna do the like, share subscribe thing you can find these podcasts at And if you liked this week’s show, please again like, share, subscribe so we can bring you more of this great content. But also on the podcast site. You can get in touch with us to let us know what you thought about the podcasts and suggest ideas for us. For more information about the UCH NaviGuide program, please visit And for more information about United Church Holmes’s Memory Care program, which we call comfort matters, it’s And if you’re listening to this podcast past, say July of 2023 We should have our caregiver resource site up and running, which we’re going to have posted under abundant aging data or because again, we want to help everyone everywhere age with abundance. We’ll see you next time.