Do you ever wonder if your loved one’s increased forgetfulness or unusual behavior is part of normal aging or signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? It is easy to make an assumption but it is important to get the right information. There are big differences between normal forgetfulness of age and cognitive impairment. There are also many common and treatable health conditions that can cause dementia like symptoms.
Everyone loses some memory-making and cognitive abilities as they age. The decline begins around age 40 and keeps going. Occasional forgetfulness like misplacing keys or not remembering what you were looking for is normal. There are signs, however, that the behavior of a loved one could be outside the norm.
The following are examples to consider:
- Everyday tasks such as using the tv remote or microwave oven
Normal aging: Needing help or reminders occasionally.
Signs of Alzheimer’s: Trouble with familiar or everyday tasks like driving to a familiar store but getting lost, forgetting how to make a familiar recipe or not remembering how to play a card game they play regularly.
- Multi-step or complex tasks like paying bills or cooking a meal
Normal aging: Making occasional mistakes and then recognizing what happened.
Signs of Alzheimer’s: Difficulty planning, problem solving or sequencing steps like following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
- Keeping track of time
Normal aging: Sometimes being confused temporarily about the day of the week, then figuring it out later.
Signs of Alzheimer’s: Having trouble tracking dates, seasons and the passage of time. Sometimes forgetting where they are or how they got there.
- Judgement and decision-making
Normal aging: Once in a while using poor judgement or making a bad decision like spending too much money on something frivolous.
Signs of Alzheimer’s: Frequently using bad judgement or making unwise decisions like giving money away, over shopping online or poor hygiene.
- Personality changes
Normal aging: Getting annoyed or irritated when habits or routines are disrupted.
Signs of Alzheimer’s: Noticeable changes in mood or personality like confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. Being easily upset at home, work, with friends or places where they are out of their comfort zone.
If you notice significant, serious or sudden behavior changes in your loved one, schedule an appointment with a physician. Early detection and treatment could help reduce and manage symptoms- allowing a loved one the opportunity to stay independent for a longer period of time.