Is it Normal Aging or Signs of Dementia?
Memory loss and aging go hand in hand, with each trip around the sun bringing inevitable and gradual changes to our brains and bodies.
We all experience aging differently. From time to time, most of us misplace our glasses or keys, forget our passwords, struggle to recall the name of a former classmate, or are a little fuzzy on the details from a decades-old event. These age-associated memory impairments shouldn’t typically be a cause for concern.
However, throughout the aging process, it’s vital for seniors and their loved ones to recognize the difference between mild forgetfulness that occurs naturally and serious memory loss that may affect mental abilities.
The National Institute on Aging, Centers for Disease Control, Alzheimer’s Association, and Mayo and Cleveland clinics offer ways to help you understand subtle memory loss changes, warning signs of dementia, and when it might be time to talk to your health care provider.
Team members from Retirement Center Management’s Memory Care program used these resources to compile a list of differences between memory loss and aging and memory loss and dementia.
Typical change that comes with aging or a possible sign of dementia?
Normal aging changes
- Misplacing your glasses, cell phone or keys
- Forgetting to pay a bill for one month
- Forgetting what day it is but remembering it later
- Forgetting names or words but recalling them later
- Forgetting to lower or raise the thermostat or taking longer to follow a recipe
- Asking someone to clarify or repeat a question
- Forgetting momentarily where you parked your car.
- Skipping the occasional meal, bath or shower
- Needing a periodic reminder for an upcoming birthday or appointment
- Worrying about your memory when friends and loved ones aren’t concerned
Possible signs of dementia
- Losing items or misplacing them in problematic areas, such as putting your wallet in the freezer
- Forgetting how or why you use your glasses, phone or keys
- Consistent trouble managing finances, paying bills or balancing a checkbook
- Losing tracks of days, months or years
- Forgetting the name of a close loved one, or having trouble holding conversations or coming up with words
- Forgetting how items, electronics or tools function or leaving ovens and burners on.
- Asking the same questions over and over
- Getting lost walking or driving places you know well, or struggling to follow directions
- Eating poorly, neglecting personal hygiene or mismanaging medications
- Missing important events and appointments altogether
- Having friends and loved ones be concerned about your memory, but you’re not aware of any issues
If you or a loved one recently received a dementia diagnosis, here are six ways to help navigate your way through this difficult time and help you better understand the memory loss and aging process.
Other issues that may affect memory loss and aging
Genetic factors, lifestyle and environment all affect how we age. In general, we can support healthy aging and brain support by challenging our minds, moving our bodies and eating healthy.
But other possible factors can mimic signs of dementia or cause memory loss, including:
- Medications, dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, or a combination of prescriptions
- Head trauma or injury from a fall or accident
- Depression or anxiety
- Stress from significant life changes or sleep disorders
- Chronic alcoholism
- Vitamin deficiencies or dehydration
- An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
- Brain tumors, blood clots or infections
A number of conditions can cause memory loss, which is why it’s essential for older adults to get a timely diagnosis and appropriate care plan.
Comforting environment, comforting associates
Retirement Center Management’s unique Memory Care program offers a team of associates to help residents with memory loss and aging through purposeful and essential activities in a comforting environment. Contact us when the time comes to explore memory care options for Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. We’ll be right there to serve you and your loved ones.