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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Poor judgement. Making serious mistakes with finances can be worrisome. Making a mistake and then realizing it later is completely normal.
- 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.
- 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.
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.