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Normal Aging vs. Memory Loss

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Is It Normal Aging or Memory Loss? Look for These Important Signs

With our aging population and the significant increase in memory loss among older Americans, it is vitally important for families to understand the differences between normal aging, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Experts on memory loss at the Alzheimer’s Association® and the Mayo Clinic® emphasize that memory loss is clearly not part of the normal aging process and should be addressed immediately by a medical professional.

“Understanding the differences between memory loss and normal aging is particularly important if you have an older parent or loved one who is beginning to exhibit signs of forgetfulness and confusion,” says Steve Carney, Wellness Director and Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. “The sooner you can identify the cause of the problem, the better it will be for everyone.”

Unless you have a working knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms of early memory loss could seem like the normal effects of aging. After all, it’s not uncommon for any of us to have occasional ‘senior moments.’ But the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are much more significant and can completely disrupt a person’s life. Beyond the basic difficulties with memory, seniors with memory loss also experience serious physical and emotional problems.

Fortunately, recognized authorities on memory loss offer proven guidelines to help you determine whether symptoms are a part of normal aging or something more serious.

Tips for Distinguishing Between Normal Age-Related Changes and Memory Loss

The Alzheimer’s Association article, “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's,” describes a list of behaviors that are considered legitimate signs of true memory loss. For contrast, they also provide a list of actions that are considered normal age-related changes.

Consider these 10 signs and the comparisons of behavior:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
    Early Memory Loss
    – Forgetting new information or important names and dates, relying on memory aids and frequent reminders from family members
    Normal Aging – Occasionally forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later
     
  2. Difficulty with planning or solving problems
    Early Memory Loss
    – Having difficulty making a plan and following it, having difficulty concentrating, especially when working with numbers or step-by-step instructions
    Normal Aging – Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook
     
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
    Early Memory Loss
    – Forgetting where an item is kept, how to drive to a familiar place, or how to play their favorite game
    Normal Aging – Sometimes needing help to record a TV show or access a computer program
     
  4. Confusion with time or place
    Early Memory Loss
    – Losing track of dates, seasons or the passage of time; forgetting where they are or how they got there
    Normal Aging – Forgetting the date or day of the week but realizing it later
     
  5. Trouble with visual images or spatial relationships
    Early Memory Loss
    – Difficulty reading, judging distance or determining color
    Normal Aging – Vision changes due to cataracts or low vision
     
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
    Early Memory Loss
    – Having trouble following a conversation or finding the right words, making up new words, stopping mid-sentence and not knowing how to continue
    Normal Aging – Occasional trouble finding the right word
     
  7. Losing the ability to retrace steps
    Early Memory Loss
    – Misplacing things in unusual places and not knowing how to find them, may accuse others of stealing from them
    Normal Aging – Misplacing an object but retraces steps to find it
     
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
    Early Memory Loss
    – Mishandling money and giving away large amounts to telemarketers; ceasing to take care of personal grooming or appearance
    Normal Aging – Making a bad decision once in awhile
     
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
    Early Memory Loss – Removing themselves from hobbies and social situations, either because they have trouble remembering or are embarrassed by the changes they’ve experienced
    Normal Aging – Occasional weariness of social obligations or the desire for some free time
     
  10. Changes in mood or personality
    Early Memory Loss – Becoming increasingly confused, anxious, suspicious, fearful or depressed, may be easily upset around people and places that are outside of their comfort zone
    Normal Aging – Becoming irritable when lifelong routines get disrupted

If a loved one is beginning to exhibit these clinical signs of memory loss, it is extremely important to schedule an examination with a physician without delay. An early diagnosis will expedite a treatment plan that will create a better life. Acting quickly also enables the person with memory loss to participate in important decisions about their care and preparing for the future.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

In addition, we invite you to read our timely blog articles and tips on current caregiver issues and memory care topics posted on our website.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at 484.380.5400 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.