As we get older, our bodies change, and this includes our brains. Memory loss is normal and common for most as they age. However, it’s important to know whether this memory loss is normal, age-related loss or dementia. Normal memory loss doesn’t have to be treated or monitored as intensely as dementia is. Additionally, if your loved one is going into an assisted living community, knowing whether they have normal memory loss or dementia will be important to making sure they find a home in the right place with the correct care.
Not everyone experiences memory loss with age. Much of this depends on your genes, lifestyle, and environment. According to the Alzheimer Society, after turning 65 years old, almost 40 percent of people will experience memory loss in some form. That number is smaller for dementia—after turning 60 years old, only 5 to 8 percent of people will live with dementia during their lives. This is why it’s important to know whether symptoms indicate normal memory loss or dementia.
Of course, if you’re questioning your loved one’s cognitive ability, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to confirm the cause of the problem. Understanding the various symptoms can help you be prepared. Here are some signs for you to look out for to help you differentiate whether you’re dealing with normal memory loss or dementia.
Absentmindedness, Forgetting Memories, and Forgetfulness
These three experiences are all normal parts of aging. Forgetting memories from a long time ago happens, as it allows the brain to make room for new memories. Additionally, focus as you become older can be harder, which is why absentmindedness and forgetfulness are two normal traits of memory loss with age. Forgetting something someone told you the prior day or forgetting an appointment that kept getting pushed to the side happens. If it continuously happens or progresses, then that could be a sign of dementia. But if it stays the same, it’s most likely just normal memory loss.
Other Mental Issues
Sometimes, other mental issues can be mistaken for dementia, as memory loss is a symptom. Depression is a good example of this, as many people dealing with depression are preoccupied with all the things causing their sadness, and they don’t have the brain bandwidth to remember other things. Additionally, if you recently suffered through a difficult time in your life, the worry and emotions tied to that can also be a reason for memory loss.
Now, what are some common signs of dementia that are not signs of normal memory loss?
Important Information is Forgotten
As mentioned above, it’s one thing to forget something that someone told you the prior day or to forget a doctor’s appointment. It’s another thing when important life details are forgotten. Forgetting the names of spouses, children, friends, or even their own name are signs that it’s dementia and not just normal memory loss. Additionally, forgetting common words or the names for things (such as not being able to remember the name of an everyday object) are also signs of dementia.
Along the same line as forgetting important information or the names of common words, another sign of dementia could be long pauses before saying the name of common items or even substituting other words or phrases for that item. For instance, if you’re talking about a bowl, they might pause for a while prior to saying the word “bowl” or, instead, refer to it as something else, such as “a circle thing you eat soup out of.”
Change in Personality
Dementia is more than just merely forgetting things. It typically causes a change in the person’s personality too. Common changes in personality for those suffering from dementia include becoming more aggressive, paranoid, or impulsive. The person suffering from dementia may not even fully realize this change in their personality, which is why it’s important for friends and family to take notice of anything that’s out of character. Everyone has bad days and days when they can be more irritable than other days, but if this personality change happens frequently, it could be a sign of dementia.
Why Knowing the Difference Matters
Often, those who have dementia don’t realize they have it. They don’t notice any problems or feel a change within themselves. This is why support from loved ones is essential. Dementia impacts more than just cognition. It could lead to forgetting to eat or eating only foods that lack proper nutrition. Or forgetting to take necessary medications, such as those that manage blood pressure or diabetes. These could be deadly mistakes.
Those closest to the senior are most likely to see any red flags, and knowing the difference between normal memory loss and dementia will help you to act quickly. If you believe that your loved one may have dementia, it’s important to take them to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made, you can assess proper next steps, such as figuring out the safest living situation.
If your loved one is diagnosed with dementia and in need of specialized memory care, the Mission at Agua Fria is here for you. We know that this is a difficult time, and we want to make it a bit easier. We ensure that residents living in our memory care neighborhoods not only live in a safe and secure environment, but they also live with dignity and with the full respect of our staff.
All our staff members are certified and licensed and will make sure your loved one receives the care they need. Additionally, we offer many memory care programs to help keep our memory care residents active and stimulated, safely. If you’re interested in learning more about our memory care neighborhood, give us a call today.