Recognizing the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Normal Age-related Changes

Many people find that their memory just isn’t what it used to be as they age, but it’s perfectly natural. However, while age-related memory loss is a common occurrence, it’s important to understand the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. First, evaluate your memory loss. A sign of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss that repeatedly impedes on daily life. Having to ask for the same information repeatedly, forgetting important dates and events, or finding that you frequently forget pieces of newly learned information all suggest possible Alzheimer’s. However, occasionally forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later is a normal age-related change in memory.

Another possible symptom of Alzheimer’s is increased challenge in planning, solving problems, and/or working with numbers. Examples of this includes newfound difficulty following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. There is likely no need for worry about making a mistake every now and then while balancing a checkbook.

Another symptom to be aware of is difficulty completing daily tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or remembering the rules of a favorite game. A typical age-related change, such as needing help troubleshooting a computer or recording a television show, is no cause for concern.

In addition, take note of confusion regarding time or place; people with Alzheimer’s frequently lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time, or they might forget where they are or how they got there. Sometimes, however, the average person forgets what day of the week it is. Especially if it’s been a particularly busy week. Don’t mind that—it happens to the best of us occasionally.

            People with Alzheimer’s also have trouble with spatial relationships, meaning they can have  difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color contrast. However, this could also be attributed to age-related changes in the eyes, such as cataracts.

Another symptom includes problems with speech, vocabulary, or writing. Trouble following a conversation, repeating oneself, stopping mid-sentence without any idea of how to continue, or calling things by the wrong name all suggest it might be time to visit a doctor. An age-related change, however, would be difficulty finding the right word, but eventually finding it with some extra time.

Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them is another common symptom of Alzheimer’s. However, someone who misplaces something but is able to go back over their steps to eventually find the item shouldn’t be particularly worried.

Further, an uncharacteristic withdrawal from social activities or once-enjoyed hobbies, along
with changes in mood and personality, both signal possible Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s can sometimes lose interest in hobbies if they can’t remember how to complete them, or find they can’t follow a favorite television show or sports game. In addition, they can become confused, anxious, suspicious, or depressed in any place where they are out of their comfort zone.

If you, a friend, or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, it’s encouraged you schedule an appointment with a doctor. Even if it isn’t Alzheimer’s, it’s important to be proactive about your health  or the health of your loved one by addressing any concerns.

Source: 2017. Alzheimer’s Association website. signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp. Accessed December 12, 2017.

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