Is it Normal Aging or Alzheimer’s Disease?
Everyone has occasional forgetfulness. You may step into a room and forget the reason you went into the room in the first place, or you may forget something at the grocery store. Sometimes these things can be concerning, but how can you know if it is normal forgetfulness or a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia?
This article covers some of the symptoms and highlights the differences between normal aging and forgetfulness and signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It can be extremely difficult and taxing to mental health to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. If you want to learn more about how to deal with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you should check out BetterHelp. They have resources that may be helpful for you and your loved one.
Before we look at some of the potential signs of Alzheimer’s disease, let’s look at some of the causes of normal age-related memory loss.
Age-Related Memory Loss
While you may have heard that the brain stops producing brain cells once you get older, that is not actually true. Memory loss is not something that it inevitable. However, just like building muscle, it can help your memory to work out your brain. Whenever people age, they retire and do not use their cognitive faculties as much as they used to.
Normal age-related memory loss will not affect your ability to function normally or eliminate your ideals or knowledge that you have accumulated throughout your life experiences. It will not erode your common sense or ability to think logically.
Sometimes, the hippocampus portion of the brain will deteriorate with age. When this happens, the ability to forma memories and access them at a later time may be affected. In addition, older people may have less blood flow to the brain, which can impact cognition.
Ability to Function
The biggest difference between age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease is the impact on a person’s ability to function. Age-related memory loss will not affect your everyday performance and routine. Alzheimer’s will decline cognitive abilities in such a way that it becomes harder to go about your daily life the way you used to.
Alzheimer’s is also more likely to make someone forget information that the learned recently. This can make it hard to carry on a normal conversation or remember to do chores and other normal responsibilities. With normal age-related memory loss, a person may forget certain things like dates or names, but they will be able to remember them later.
Alzheimer’s disease can make it hard to plan or solve problems. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia may find that it is hard to remember a recipe, keep track finances, or concentrate when solving a problem or planning something.
Normal age-related memory loss can lead to errors or occasional forgetfulness, but it unlikely to make certain planning and problem-solving activities take substantially longer than they used to. It will also largely be brief and infrequent compared with memory loss related to Alzheimer’s.
Someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia will become confused about time or location. They may lose track of the dates or be unable to adequately estimate the passage of time. For example, someone with age-related memory loss may think that it is the 6th when it is actually the 8th, but they will be able to estimate when 2 hours have passed. With Alzheimer’s disease, the person may feel like it has been 2 hours, but it has only been 25 minutes.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may even forget what season it is or what holidays are coming up. Alzheimer’s disease can also cause someone to forget where they are or how they got there. This is very unlikely to happen with any normal memory loss.
Alzheimer’s can cause vision problems that lead to trouble reading or balancing. It may also be hard to determine changes in colors or contrast between different shades. It can also make it hard to adequately determine distances. All of these symptoms can make it difficult to drive safely.
The only vision change associated with age is the development of cataracts. If you are concerned about any vision changes, it is best to consult with an eye doctor.
People who have Alzheimer’s will have a harder time conversing, speaking, and writing. They may cease talking in the middle of a conversation and forget what they were saying. It may be hard for them to continue. They may also ask repetitive questions or repeat themselves.
It can also make it hard to remember words. It can even make it hard to think of the word associated with certain things. For example, someone with Alzheimer’s may call a wallet a “pocket-purse” or a watch an “arm-clock.” While age-related cognitive decline may make it hard to find the right word, it will not make it more difficult to communicate and you would likely remember the word later.
Age-related memory loss can lead to occasional mistakes or poor decisions, but they will not be frequent or severe. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, can cause a person to regularly use poor judgment. This can lead to erroneous financial decisions, poor hygiene, or confusion judgments.
It can also become very hard to pay attention or concentrate on a task. Someone without Alzheimer’s may become distracted or bored, but they can pay attention to things when they are interested or care about the activity. This is not always the case with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes associated with a withdrawal form social interaction. This may be caused by the inability to carry on a conversation without getting confused or frustrated. It may also make it hard to keep up with hobbies and interests.
This is not to be confused with disinterest. It is normal for some people to not want to interact socially when it is something that does not interest them. With Alzheimer’s though, it is more than disinterest and becomes active avoidance.
With older age comes maturity and the development of precise methods and routines. With Alzheimer’s disease, a person’s entire personality may become altered. This can lead to paranoia and suspicion, anxiety and depression, and irritability and agitation.
These changes can also cause mental health changes. The person may not be in the same type of moods that they would have been in before the development of Alzheimer’s disease. They may act much different based on these mood changes as well.
Occasional forgetfulness that does not affect your ability to function is often a sign of normal memory loss. However, once it starts to impact your social abilities, routines, and judgments, then it may be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. If you notice a loved one or yourself is struggling with these types of issues, then it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional.