Is It Normal Aging or Memory Loss? Understanding the Differences

dementia patient daughterAlzheimer’s disease is the most common form of memory loss. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after the age of 60. According to the National Institute on Aging, it is estimated that more than five million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease.

Today, many families have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one. Because of its increasing prevalence and significant impact on families, understanding the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s is very important. While we all have our “senior moments” in life, there are specific symptoms of memory loss that differ from what medical experts would consider normal behavior.

The Importance of Knowing

Although there is currently no cure for the disease, promising research continues. Memory loss experts agree that the sooner the condition can be identified in a loved one, the better the chances of a favorable response to treatment, the longer the delay in the progression of symptoms and the less financial cost of needed care overall. Therefore, knowing the warning signs and seeking professional help quickly can be essential to your loved one’s long-term well-being.

Normal Behavior Versus the Warning Signs of Memory Loss

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following behaviors are considered valid warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss and are different from normal behavior:

Normal behavior: Occasionally forgetting someone’s name or an appointment but remembering it later.

Warning Sign: Memory loss that disrupts daily life – Forgetting recently learned information and important events; asking for the same information repeatedly; relying on memory aides for things that used to be handled routinely.

Normal behavior: Making simple math errors occasionally when balancing a checkbook.

Warning Sign: Challenges in planning or problem solving –Trouble following a plan, directions or a recipe; difficulty keeping track of monthly bills; challenges when working with numbers.

Normal behavior: Needing help once in a while to use the settings on a microwave or to record a TV show.

Warning Sign: Difficulty completing familiar activities – Challenges with driving to a familiar location; challenges remembering the rules of a favorite game; difficulty managing a budget.

Normal behavior: Getting confused about the day of the week, but eventually figuring it out.

Warning Sign: Confusion with time or place –Losing track of dates, seasons or a general passage of time; trouble understanding something if it is not happening in the moment; forgetting where you are or how you got there.

Normal behavior: Vision changes related to cataracts or the aging eye.

Warning Sign: Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships –Difficulty reading or judging distance; determining color; not recognizing one’s own reflection in a mirror.

Normal behavior: Occasionally having trouble finding the right word to use.

Warning Sign: New problems with words in speaking or writing –Difficulty following or participating in a conversation; struggling with vocabulary or “word finding”; calling things by the wrong name.

Normal behavior: Misplacing things from time to time, like a pair of glasses or a wallet.

Warning Sign: Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – Putting things in unusual places; the inability to retrace steps to find items again; accusing others of stealing items.

Normal behavior: Making a bad decision once in awhile.

Warning Sign: Decreased or poor judgment – Challenges with decision-making; difficulty dealing with money; paying less attention to hygiene.

Normal behavior: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations and needing some “downtime” and privacy.

Warning Sign: Withdrawal from work or social activities – Removing oneself from hobbies, work projects, sports, etc.; trouble remembering how to perform a favorite hobby;avoiding social activities because of self-awareness of changes in abilities.

Normal behavior: Developing specific routines and becoming irritable when disrupted.

Warning Sign: Changes in mood and personality –Confusion or suspiciousness; depression, fear and anxiety; getting easily upset at work with friends or places outside of their comfort zone.

Help Is Available for Caregivers

If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other form of memory loss, please know that you are not alone. The team at North Woods Village is here to help you understand memory impairment and cope with the challenges you face every day. Progressiveresidential Memory Care providers, such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers. We can help you deliver the best quality care and quality of life for your loved one while taking care of yourself, too.

Guiding. Caring. Inspiring.

For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM  program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM  provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.

For more information on how North Woods Village can help you engage your loved one with Art Therapy, contact us today!