Forgetfulness vs. Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia

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posted by Ted Ryan on March 17, 2015

Forgetfulness is a natural part of aging. Alzheimer’s disease is not. So, just how is one to know when to take notice and when to figure they’re just hitting that age?

As we get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. It may take longer to learn new things. We may not remember information as well as in younger years. Those reading glasses are never where you left them. Generally, this is part of normal aging and not a serious memory problem.

For individuals with dementia, forgetfulness becomes a serious problem with thinking, judgment, recognizing family and friends and performing common tasks. As dementia progresses, an individual will require increased care.

The following examples illustrate differences between natural forgetfulness of aging and Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. (They are not intended to be used as a diagnostic tool.)

Normal Aging

Alzheimer's Disease/Dementia

Memory improves with cueing and context.

Memory is poor and cueing and context don't help.

Vocabulary and relationship understanding remains in tact.

Repetitiveness becomes obvious and confusion increases.

Remember the order of things and who said what.

Can't remember the order of things or who said what.

Functioning remains good despite forgetfulness.

Day-to-day function declines along with memory.

Forget part of an experience.

Forget the entire experience.

Forgetful but eventually remember information.

Forget and won't recall the information at a later time.

Can usually follow instructions (verbal and written) without difficulty.

Less and less able to follow instructions.

Using notes and other reminders is helpful.

Less able to benefit from memory aids.

Able to manage personal care (bathing, dressing, grooming, etc.).

Lose ability to manage personal tasks.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have a memory loss problem, talk with your doctor, who may be able to diagnose the problem or refer you to a specialist. At Seniors Home Care, we specialize in dementia and can recommend ways to manage the problem or suggest treatment or services that might help. Contact us to arrange a free, no-obligation home assessment with an SHC nurse.

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Alzheimer's and Dementia

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