Alzheimer’s is different from the normal forgetfulness of aging. Alzheimer’s is one of many conditions that cause the radical changes in memory, reasoning, and behavior known as “dementia.” The normal forgetfulness of aging is just an inconvenience, a slowing down. The serious changes of dementia eventually result in the inability to live on your own.
Here are some helpful distinctions developed by the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Memory failures that affect daily life. Trouble learning something new. Not recalling recent events. Asking the same question over and over. Normal aging: Not remembering something in the moment but recalling it later.
- Difficulty with problem solving and reasoning. Inability to think abstractly (e.g., use numbers) and create logical plans. Signs include difficulty figuring a tip or following a recipe. Normal aging: Occasional addition or subtraction errors.
- Trouble with familiar tasks. Drawing a blank while playing a beloved game or driving to a familiar location. Normal aging: Needing help with something recently learned.
- Losing the anchor of time. Forgetting the season or the year. Normal aging: Briefly losing track of the day of the week.
- Spatial problems. Trouble judging distance. Difficulty with balance. Normal aging: Needing glasses to read.
- Communication problems. Losing the thread of a conversation. Repeating a story or question. Normal aging: Occasional inability to find a word.
- “Losing” common objects. Putting belongings in odd places and not remembering. Inability to retrace steps. Accusing others of stealing. Normal aging: Forgetting why you went into a room and retracing your steps to remember.
- Poor judgment. Falling for scams, overspending, wearing odd outfits. Normal aging: Periodically making a bad decision or skipping a bill payment.
- Withdrawal from activities. Not socializing as much, especially as conversing becomes difficult. Normal aging: Consciously choosing to do something different.
- Moody or irritable. Significant personality changes: Depression, anxiety, fear, and paranoia. Normal aging: Getting grouchy if cherished routines are disrupted.
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