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Is It Dementia Or Just Old Age

When To Be Worried

Conditions in old age that look like dementia but are other conditions

So, when does forgetfulness escalate from a normal part of the aging process to cause for concern? Porter says the key difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that typical forgetfulness doesnt interfere with a persons ability to function in their daily life and they are still able to carry out their usual chores, activities and routines. Similarly, Dr. Aaron George, an osteopathic primary care physician, tells SheKnows that forgetfulness isnt cause for concern unless it becomes progressive and begins to impact daily activities.

In contrast , dementia is characterized by marked, persistent and disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment or abstract reasoning that significantly interfere with and disrupt your normal daily activities, Porter explains. When memory loss disrupts a persons work, hobbies, social activities and family relationships, this could be a sign they have an evolving dementia syndrome or a condition that mimics dementia, such as Alzheimers, a brain infection, cerebrovascular disease or an autoimmune illness like multiple sclerosis.

Dementia: A Set Of Symptoms

Many people think that dementia constitutes a diagnosis in and of itself, but it describes a set of symptoms that can result from several different disorders of the brain.

The symptoms that dementia encompasses revolve around mental deterioration with a level of severity that affects the sufferers daily life. If you begin experiencing dementia, you may notice signs in a variety of different brain functions: recalling recent information, understanding symbols and maps, writing and speaking, reasoning, solving problems and other comprehension issues.

Dementia Or Old Age Know The Difference

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As people age, some adults may notice it takes longer to learn new tasks or activities. Retaining information is more difficult. They may also lose items more easily, such as eyeglasses or car keys. Its common to become more forgetful, or to have trouble recalling certain dates or the details of past experiences. But in some cases, a failing memory is a sign of dementia.

How can you tell the difference between normal aging and dementia? The primary difference between the two is that mild forgetfulness does not significantly impact a persons life, while dementia can have permanent, debilitating effects.

As one of the best-rated geriatrics programs in the country, UPMC Geriatric Services strives to maintain a patients quality of life and independence. To make an appointment with one of our geriatricians, call 1-800-533-UPMC . For more information, visit our website.

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Where To Get Help

  • Your local community health centre
  • National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
  • Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
  • My Aged Care 1800 200 422
  • Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
  • Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
  • Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Australian Government Tel. 1800 052 222
  • Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers

What To Look For

Senior corner: Separating normal aging from dementia ...

Georges advice is to be on the lookout for abrupt changes or rapid differences in a parents memory. He tells SheKnows that other red flags are when a persons memory issues impact their life, particularly in a negative or dangerous manner examples include forgetting to turn off the stove after cooking, missing paying bills or losing their grasp on balancing the checkbook.

I will often ask if patients find themselves driving somewhere and then forgetting why they left or losing the way in an otherwise normal driving route, George says. All of these may be signs to seek further evaluation with a physician.

Porter adds that the following are warning signs that a parent should be evaluated for dementia or a dementia-related illness:

  • Repetitively asking the same questions
  • Frequently inserting the wrong word into a conversation
  • Taking a long time to complete daily chores due to memory problems
  • Getting lost while walking or driving in a relatively familiar area
  • A sudden, unexplained change in mood, personality or behavior

The bottom line is that if youre worried about a parents declining memory, it can never hurt to have them evaluated by an expert. Hopefully youll be provided with reassurance that their memory lapses are an unpleasant but normal part of aging but if there is an underlying cause, the sooner you can begin working with a doctor on a treatment plan, the better.

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Forgetting The Names Of Family Members

Weve probably all had those moments where we struggle to remember the name of someone we just met at a party, or an acquaintance we bump into on the street. However, while having to ask again for the name of someone we dont know very well isnt too alarming, those with Alzheimers will take this to the next level.

Alzheimer Society Canada explains this misplacement of names can extend to family members and others the patient sees on a daily or regular basis. It can also mean the patient doesnt recognize a family member, and it can go without saying how upsetting this may be for a loved one.

How To Address Early Signs Of Dementia

If you notice any of the above signs and think someone you love may have Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia, make a doctors appointment immediately. Early diagnosis is critical for ruling out curable conditions that can mimic symptoms of dementia, devising care and treatment strategies, and making legal and financial plans for the future.

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Abnormal Aging: Mild Cognitive Impairment Vs Dementia

Mild cognitive impairment and dementia are broad terms that indicate that there is a decline in cognition greater than would be expected for that persons age, education or development. MCI means that the cognitive declines do not affect the persons ability to carry out everyday tasks , while dementia indicates those cognitive difficulties are impacting the persons ability to complete everyday tasks. The terms MCI and dementia only tell us the severity of the problem but not the cause some of the most common causes of MCI and dementia are Alzheimers disease, vascular disease, frontotemporal degeneration and Lewy body disease.

Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks

Dementia – Forgetting Memories | Old Age | Dr Prabhjot Gill

A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.

Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.

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Dementia And Other Brain Issues

Alzheimers dementia is the most common type of dementia, followed by vascular dementia. They have similar symptoms: confusion, getting lost, forgetting close friends or family, or an inability to do calculations like balance the checkbook. Certain medical conditions thyroid disorders, syphilis can lead to dementia symptoms, and less common types of dementia can have different kinds of symptoms. Alzheimers has a distinct set of symptoms often associated with certain changes in the brain.

Focusing on safety and appropriate supervision, particularly in the home, is critical for all people with dementia. Your doctor or a social worker can help you find support.

Its also important to be aware of two other things that can lead to decreased mental functioning delirium and depression.

Delirium, a rapid change in cognition or mental functioning, can occur in people with an acute medical illness, like pneumonia or even COVID-19 infection. Delirium can occur in patients in the hospital or at home. Risk for delirium increases with age or previous brain injuries symptoms include decreased attention span and memory issues.

Depression can happen at any time, but its more common with aging. How can you tell if youre depressed? Heres one simple definition: when your mood remains low and youve lost interest or joy in activities you once loved.

How Did I Get Here

If you walk into a room and can’t remember what you were doing, that’s not cause for concern. It happens to all of us. But people with Alzheimer’s disease sometimes forget where they are. Or they find themselves somewhere and don’t remember how they got there. If that’s a problem you have, it’s a good idea to get help.

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Other Causes Of Dementia

There are many other causes of dementia including infections like HIV, prion disease such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, head trauma, Parkinsons disease, Huntingtons disease, and others. There are also some dementia-like conditions that are treatable or even reversible, including some sleep disorders, some hormonal diseases, depression, and having a bad reaction to medications.

When To Visit The Doctor For Memory Loss

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If you, a family member, or friend has problems remembering recent events or thinking clearly, talk with a doctor. He or she may suggest a thorough checkup to see what might be causing the symptoms. You may also wish to talk with your doctor about opportunities to participate in research on cognitive health and aging.

At your doctor visit, he or she can perform tests and assessments, which may include a brain scan, to help determine the source of memory problems. Your doctor may also recommend you see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the brain and nervous system.

Memory and other thinking problems have many possible causes, including depression, an infection, or medication side effects. Sometimes, the problem can be treated, and cognition improves. Other times, the problem is a brain disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which cannot be reversed.

Finding the cause of the problems is important for determining the best course of action. Once you know the cause, you can make the right treatment plan. People with memory problems should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory every six to 12 months. They can ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind them if they’re worried they’ll forget.

Learn more about cognitive health and Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

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Talking With A Doctor

After considering the persons symptoms and ordering screening tests, the doctor may offer a preliminary diagnosis or refer the person to a Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinic, neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.Some people may be resistant to the idea of visiting a doctor. In some cases, people do not realise, or else they deny, that there is anything wrong with them. This can be due to the brain changes of dementia that interfere with the ability to recognise or appreciate the changes occurring. Others have an insight of the changes, but may be afraid of having their fears confirmed.One of the most effective ways to overcome this problem is to find another reason for a visit to the doctor. Perhaps suggest a check-up for a symptom that the person is willing to acknowledge, such as blood pressure, or suggest a review of a long-term condition or medication.Another way is to suggest that it is time for both of you to have a physical check-up. Any expressed anxiety by the person is an excellent opportunity to suggest a visit to the doctor. Be sure to provide a lot of reassurance. A calm, caring attitude at this time can help overcome the person’s very real worries and fears.Sometimes, your friend or family member may refuse to visit the doctor to ask about their symptoms. You can take a number of actions to get support including:

  • talking with other carers who may have had to deal with similar situations
  • contacting your local Aged Care Assessment Team

Is There Anything I Can Do

If your memory is OK but you’re still worried, there may be something you can do about it. People who spend time reading, solving puzzles, or otherwise staying engaged are less likely to get Alzheimer’s. It’s possible that these activities can help you to keep your mind sharp. It’s also a good idea to lower your stress, eat right, and exercise.

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Alzheimer’s Vs Normal Aging: How To Tell The Difference

ByRachael Rettner30 May 2013

Everyone’s memory gets worse with age, so how can you tell the difference between normal aging and signs of Alzheimer’s disease?

There definitely is a distinction between the two, experts say. “Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging,” said Heather Snyder, senior associate director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, a general term for a condition in which someone develops cognitive problems as a result of changes in the brain. Alzheimer’s is thought to be caused by the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain.

The most common symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficultly remembering things , particularly new information, such as an appointment you have made. While people who are aging normally may forget things as well, they will typically remember them later — in other words, you remember that you forgot.

But in some people with Alzheimer’s disease , that doesn’t happen. “You forget something and then you don’t get that information back, it doesn’t seem familiar to you even if someone reminds you,” Snyder said.

Another example might be forgetting to pay your monthly bills, which would be a sign of normal aging, versus forgetting how to pay your bills or how to manage your budget, which would be a sign of Alzheimer’s, Snyder said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, other signs of Alzheimer’s disease include:

What To Expect At Your Doctors Visit

Dementia versus Normal Memory Loss

The doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your memory, including:

  • How long have you or others noticed a problem with your memory?
  • What kinds of things have been difficult to remember?
  • Did the difficulty come on gradually or suddenly?
  • Are you having trouble doing ordinary things?

The doctor also will want to know what medications youre taking, how youve been eating and sleeping, whether youve been depressed or stressed lately, and other questions about whats been happening in your life. Chances are the doctor will also ask you or your partner to keep track of your symptoms and check back in a few months. If your memory problem needs more evaluation, your doctor may send you to a neuropsychologist.

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Dementia And Cognitive Impairment

Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not a specific disease .

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioningthe ability to think, remember, or reasonto such an extent that it interferes with a persons daily life and activities. These functions include memory, language skills, visual perception, problem solving, self-management, and the ability to focus and pay attention.

Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a persons functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living .

Age is the primary risk factor for developing dementia. For that reason, the number of people living with dementia could double in the next 40 years as the number of Americans age 65 and older increases from 48 million today to more than 88 million in 2050. Regardless of the form of dementia, the personal, economic, and societal demands can be devastating.

Dementia is not the same asdelirium, which is usually a short-term complication of a medical condition and most often can be treated successfully. Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss.

Normal Forgetfulness Vs Dementia

For most people, occasional lapses in short-term memory are a normal part of the aging process, not a warning sign of serious mental deterioration or the onset of Alzheimers or another dementia.

The following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:

  • Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
  • Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your sons name.
  • Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
  • Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what youve just read, or the details of a conversation.
  • Not quite being able to retrieve information you have on the tip of your tongue.

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What’s The Difference: Age

Has your parent ever called you by the wrong name on accident?

If you have siblings, you most likely answered yes to that question, as Dad ran through the whole roster before settling on the right one.

A minor mistake when were children, being called the wrong name by our parent becomes much more troubling the older we get. You start to wonderis it a slip of the tongue or an indication of something more serious?

Many adult children struggle with determining whether their senior parents memory loss is a normal part of aging or a sign of dementia. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning and behavioral abilities to the point that it interferes with a person’s daily life. In other words, its more than the usual memory loss thats to be expected as we age.

One important thing to notedementia is different from Alzheimers disease. Dementia is not a disease rather, its a group of symptoms that affect memory and cognitive ability. It can be a symptom of Alzheimers, but it can also be a result of something else.

Heres how to tell the difference between normal memory loss and dementia, and what to do if youre concerned about Mom or Dad.


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