Can saying the wrong word be a sign of dementia?

I don’t know how common this is with other people, which is why I’m asking. Here’s an example. Yesterday I meant to say “oh, why are there new, green wheels on that?” instead what came out was “why leaf wheel?”. It was funny at the time but it does occasionally happen to me.

Is this normal? Abnormal? Just a brain fart or indicative of something more?

It depends.

It could be dementia…it could be a tumor…it could be just being tired.

Watch it, log it, if necessary, and discuss it with your PCP.

Having occasional word finding difficulties is common. If it is happening several times a day and every day that would be abnormal. Do the people you are speak with comment on the wrong word? If not, it is probably happening rarely enough that they may think they misheard what you had said.

As @Omar_Little said, discuss your concerns with your primary physician and they can refer you for further evaluation if necessary. But if this is the only cognitive issue you are having, I would not obsess over it.

Read the threads here about Senior Moments:

If what you describe is dementia a significant fraction of posters here also have it–which I don’t believe is true.

My wife has been doing that as long as I’ve known her- over 20 years. For example, once we were getting in the car to go somewhere and she said “did you remember to lock the refrigerator door?”

Refrigerator door?.”

“I said front door!”

“No, you did not.”

You didn’t say how old you were. If you are in your 20s or 30s I think it’s unusual, but not unheard of. If it only happens once in a blue moon I wouldn’t worry about it unless it starts to happen more frequently.

If you’re in your 40s or 50s and it’s happening often enough that it worries you then you should talk to your PCP and see if a referral is appropriate. It could be a sign of early-onset dementia, but that’s fairly rare.

If you’re in your 60s or 70s I think it’s pretty common, and unless it’s happening all the time it’s probably considered normal. If you’re worried about it talk to your PCP and see what they say.

Baseline cognitive testing is a good idea so they can see if there is cognitive impairment happening over time that can be measured. I had my baseline testing done at 65 and I will do it again at 70. Alzheimer’s Disease runs in my family and I want to know if it’s happening to me as early as possible.

I’m in my early 50’s and it doesn’t cause me a great deal of concern but, when it does happen, there’s a little niggling in the back of my mind about it. There hasn’t been a lot of dementia in my family. The only one I can think of is my paternal great-grandfather who had Alzheimer’s.

My dad may have had the beginnings of dementia but Parkinson’s killed him before it was obvious. I remember him forgetting words like “crow” and “circus”. But both of those could have just been brain farts.

eh… never

If it doesn’t give you much concern then I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You might want to mention it to your PCP the next time you see him/her. I know it can be embarrassing to forget a word when talking to someone, especially if it’s a word that you should know but just can’t recall or you substitute a different word in its place. The brain isn’t perfect and I often have trouble remembering something that I should have no problem remembering, hence the cognitive testing.

I think the key is to see if it’s getting worse over time. Often times a close friend may notice it and not mention it to avoid embarrassing you. I would ask someone who is close to you whether they notice it happening more now than say a few years ago. If they say yes, that might mean you should talk to your PCP about it sooner rather than later.

An excellent idea! I’m going to do just that.

Are they on any kind of meds? Some medications make you more forgetful, and you tend to do one of those, “oh, what’s the word for that?” kind of thing, but it’s not dementia. I find myself doing that every now and then.