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Dementia – or Ordinary Age-Related Change?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

May 12, 2021 — Just about everyone struggles with a word or a name occasionally. As in, the name of person coming toward you in the supermarket is right on the tip of your tongue, but it just won’t come out. So embarrassing, and yet so common. The Alzheimer’s Association has some great information that can help differentiate between normal age-related change and the more serious signs of approaching dementia. We will recap some of those points here, but their article, Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, has even more detailed information that everyone will find useful. It seems that the difference between Alzheimer’s and ordinary age-related change are degree (how serious the behavior is), and length of time it is displayed.

Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are many other forms of dementia as well. Here are 10 warning signs, along with examples of normal age-related changes:

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
  1. Memory loss that disrupts everyday life. Forgetting important dates, not remembering recently acquired information, and asking the same questions over and over again could mean the onset of something serious. On the other hand, everyone occasionally forgets an appointment and then remembers it later.
  2. Difficulty planning or solving problems. Confusion when it comes to following a plan, difficulty about numbers, or not remembering how to follow a recipe are warning signs. Having difficulty balancing your checkbook is normal.
  3. Familiar tasks get more challenging. Someone who can’t remember directions to a familiar location or follow a shopping list might be at risk. A normal age-related problem is having to ask how to record a favorite TV show.
  4. Confusion about time or place. If someone you know has trouble with the seasons or how they got somewhere, that is a warning sign. Forgetting what day it is for few moments is an ordinary problem.
  5. Getting lost. A warning of approaching Alzheimer’s might start having problems reading or judging spaces. That could mean impaired driving or getting lost. On the other hand, cataracts cause typical age-related vision problems.
  6. Speaking or writing problems. Repeatedly forgetting where you are in a conversation, repeating the same story, or using the wrong word could be warning signs. But being at temporary loss for a word is completely normal.
  7. Misplacing things. An Alzheimer’s warning sign could be losing items and not being to figure out steps to retrieve them. A normal age-related issue is losing things but being able to find them again.
  8. Poor judgement. Making serious mistakes with finances can be worrisome. Making a mistake and then realizing it later is completely normal.
  9. Withdrawal from normal activities. Since a person with Alzheimer’s can have trouble keeping up with conversations and those around them, they might start to withdraw into their own world. It is normal, however, to temporarily feel disengaged from family or work.
  10. Mood and personality changes. These serious warning signs include paranoia, depression, and anger. On the other hand, it is normal for everyone to have brief periods of feeling down or bad temper.

Bottom line

I don’t know about you, but I seem to display just about all of the normal age-related changes. Thankfully, they don’t seem to rise to the level of concern. But, if you notice these changes in yourself or a loved one, the best plan is to seek an early evaluation by a medical professional.

What are you experiencing? Please use the Comments section below share the age-related memory issues you experience, or if you notice more serious changes, either in yourself or a loved one.

Posted by Admin on May 12th, 2021


  1. Very good article, thanks!

    by RichPB — May 13, 2021

  2. Lisa Genova, a Harvard trained neuroscientist turned fiction author (“Still Alice” about Alzheimer’s, “Left Neglected” about strokes, etc.) just published a new book called “Remember”. It has a lot of great and very readable information about how memories are formed, why we forget, and when to worry. I’m reading it now and finding it clarifying.

    by Carol — May 14, 2021

  3. Good Morning. While I do phone [Monthly] a Good Guy who pitched for our Town Team. I never realized the EVERYDAY Mental & Emotional IMPACT on his Wife. The Lady is a Trooper!! She does deserve a Medal!!
    As I do live at the other end of the Country; last week’s phone call really got my Attention. The Disease is crippling to the Main Caregiver as well. Especially, if the Diseased Person is accustomed to Feeling Sharp & Being Sharp & “a Guy”. [We really can be PITA’s.]
    So Caregiver’s whether Female or Male: Cheers!! & God Bless!!

    by Billy B — May 14, 2021

  4. Blame the brain waves being out of sync re: normal age related changes

    by Fionna — May 15, 2021

  5. For what it’s worth, my (now deceased) spouse started having trouble with words for common objects. He would look at a pen for example and say “I need that…that…”. Sometimes he’s switch to alternative words but it happened frequently enough that I wanted him to have a check up. I was wondering if he might be having mini-strokes or something else. We had no dementia in either of our families, and he was only in his early 50s – Alzheimer’s never crossed our minds. We got a possible diagnosis immediately from the internist quickly, confirmed by neurologists. As I look back, I realize there were other symptoms in the year or so before: starting to be untidy, his income & interest in his profession was dropping (he had been self-employed), and he became indecisive and deferred to me more than usual.

    I would warn against driving, even in early stages. My spouse’s license was canceled since the doctors of our state at the time immediately were reporting the diagnosis to the DOT (I don’t know what they do now). My spouse was diagnosed so early, that he was very angry about it. He felt he was still absolutely fine to drive. We went to a special program in a specialty hospital that cleared people who had disabilities to drive. One of the tests that they used was a virtual driving test. The results shocked us. They showed that my husband was actually too impaired even at the early stage. While he could stop at red lights, read signs etc, by the time of the diagnosis his brain was already so impaired that it was actually no longer able to multi-task. If a child ran out in the street at the same time that another car swerved, for ex., his brain was actually no longer able to multi-task, process both events and react quickly. So many dementia patients and their families continue to drive, believing they are fine. They actually aren’t. And yes, he argued with the findings — which also showed some impaired judgment and a loss of understanding about the potential risks to our insurance and the family’s liability for allowing him to continue to drive.

    by Kate — May 15, 2021

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