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Is It Dementia or Normal Aging? How to Tell the Difference

November 1, 2016 Is It Dementia or Normal Aging? How to Tell the Difference 

As more brain researchers are finding that subjective cognitive complaints may be the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s disease, how can you tell the difference between normal age-related memory problems and early Alzheimer’s? The following 10 warning signs from the Alzheimer’s Association will help you differentiate the two.

1. Significant memory changes. Forgetting important dates, events or appointments and repeatedly asking for the same information. If you are aging normally, you may sometimes forget names and doctor appointments, but not important events. Once you are reminded, you will continue to remember them.

2. Difficulty solving problems or making plans. Difficulty doing things that were once easy such as keeping track of bills, working with numbers or following a recipe. When you age normally, you may occasionally make mistakes on these tasks but not routinely.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work and play. Completing normal daily tasks, trouble driving a car to and from a familiar location or difficulty remembering the rules of a favorite game becomes difficult. An age-related issue would be needing help to work an HD television or change settings on a microwave.

4. Confusion with time or place. Losing track of the passage of time, forgetting day and year or not knowing how one arrived at a destination. With age-related changes, a person can be slightly confused about the day of the week but will figure it out when given clues and then retain it.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Difficulty with judging distance, reading and determining color or contrast. Vision difficulties may be a sign of Alzheimer’s for some people. Recognizing familiar places or people, not just family or friends but even famous people, may become difficult. Blurred vision or changes in eyeglass prescription are typical age-related changes.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. Increasing trouble joining a conversation, calling things by the wrong name or repeating oneself. Occasional trouble finding the right word is a normal age-related issue.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Putting things in unusual places, losing things and being unable to find them or accusing people of stealing. Misplacing things from time to time but being able to retrace steps to find them is not an uncommon age-related issue.

8. Decreased or poor judgment. Difficulty dealing with money or giving money away, often to strangers, when this is not a life-long behavior. Making a bad decision once in a while is a normal age-related problem.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Becoming weary of work, family and social obligations: trouble remembering how to complete a favorite hobby or how to keep up with a favorite sports team. People with normal age-related complaints will sometimes complain of work, family and social obligations but their activity level does not dramatically decrease.

10. Changes in mood and personality. Becoming confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. A normal age-related change entails doing things a certain way and becoming irritable when the routine is disrupted.


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