Normal Aging or Early Alzheimer’s?

Dementia care experts help shed light on the differences between normal aging and the signs of early Alzheimer’s. 05/14/2015

As our parents age, we all notice slight differences in them. From forgetting simple things like someone’s name to developing new aches and pains in their joints, aging brings change. Sometimes it takes longer for an aging parent to get from point A to point B, both physically and mentally. In most cases, this is just a natural part of the aging process and age-related memory loss.

Sometimes the changes might appear to be a little more serious though.  At what point should you be concerned an older parent’s behavior might be caused by more than normal aging? The National Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of ten warning signs between age-related memory loss and dementia that may warrant further investigation.

10 Signs a Parent’s Memory Loss is More Than Normal Aging:

1.  When memory loss interferes with daily living.  Forgetting dates or names and then remembering them later is fairly common as we age.  However, if a parent or other aging loved one does not recall this information at all or has resorted to using note cards or other prompts to guide them through the activities of daily living, it might be an early signal of Alzheimer’s.

2.  Problems with simple problem solving.  We all make an occasional error when balancing our checkbook.  But when an aging parent can no longer follow a favorite recipe or manage their monthly bills, it might indicate something more than aging is responsible.

3.  Trouble completing daily tasks.  Needing help to set a GPS or check email is not a huge concern.  However, people with Alzheimer’s often have trouble completing familiar and routine tasks such as working the dialing the telephone or finding their way to an often visited location.

4.  Unable to stay oriented to time and place.  Unless something is happening now, people with Alzheimer’s often have trouble keeping up.  They may be unable to remember what day it is, the year, and even their location.

5.  Developing visual difficulties.  People with Alzheimer’s sometimes develop problems with reading, determining color and even judging distance when driving.  These problems might just be related to the presence of cataracts.  But if their physician determines cataracts or another eye problem isn’t the cause, it might be the onset of Alzheimer’s.

6.  Issues with verbal communication.  While having a conversation, finding the right word can occasionally be a problem for anyone.  Alzheimer’s can leave people struggling to find the right word, consistently calling things by the wrong name, repeating themselves or even finding that they lack the ability to join in a discussion.

7.  Misplacing Items.  A few minutes spent looking for lost car keys or a grocery list is not a big concern.  But a person with Alzheimer’s will often put these and other items in unexpected places.  Unfortunately, they often lack the memory skills to retrace their steps to find the item. In some cases, a person with Alzheimer’s may even become suspicious and accuse friends and family of stealing their misplaced possessions.

8.  Reduced judgment skills.  Making an occasional bad decision is fairly typical for all of us.  However, for someone suffering with Alzheimer’s, poor judgment becomes common place.  Sometimes it results in a loss of money, poor grooming and personal hygiene or placing their trust in the wrong person.

9.  Lack of interest in work or social interactions.  Withdrawing from work, social activities or sports is something that also happens to a person with Alzheimer’s.  This may be because they don’t understand the changes they are experiencing or because they don’t remember how to complete work tasks or the rules to a favorite sport.

10.  Changes in temperament. People suffering with Alzheimer’s can experience changes in temperament, mood and personality.  A person who was always easy going may become temperamental and exhibit signs of anxiety, fear, confusion, and suspicion.  They might become angry and get upset easily.

If you have noticed these or other warning signs in your loved one, it may be time for a consultation with their primary care physician.  He or she will be the best person to decide if your concerns about their health are normal aging or something more serious, like Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

We also invite you to call the Elmcroft Senior Living community nearest you for answers to questions related to Alzheimer’s disease.  The experts from our Heartland Village Memory Care program will be happy to help.