5 Signs of Dementia VS Normal Memory LossPosted on January 21, 2015 by ElderCare Resources in Blog, Dementia Care, Memory Loss
Normal Memory Loss or Dementia?
By Madeline Vann, MPH
A certain degree of forgetfulness may accompany aging. Normal memory loss most often means that you have a harder time recalling new pieces of information, such as the name of a person you met for the first time last week.
“Typical signs [of dementia] are extreme forgetfulness, not just forgetting the keys here and there. Rather, forgetting where one is, whether or not one just ate, forgetting to put shoes on before going outside, and that sort of thing,” says Ross Andel, PhD, associate professor at the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
So if you go for your daily walk and experience a little confusion about how to get home, should you worry? Many experts, like Andel, think it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and get in touch with your doctor if you have moments of forgetfulness that worry you.
“The difference can be very subtle, and any suspicion should be consulted and/or confirmed by a professional, such as those working at memory clinics of Alzheimer’s disease centers,” he says. The advantage to working with an expert, such as a neurologist, is that an expert can give you memory tests that help determine whether your experience with memory loss is normal or not.
Dementia Signs that Indicate a Problem
Consider these red flags of memory loss and cognitive problems:
- Does it interfere with daily life? Everyone forgets a name, only to remember later — but if you’re consistently forgetting appointments, can’t remember how to cook foods you’ve always been able to cook, or people tell you you’ve asked them for the same information multiple times, those are more serious signs.
- Do you have trouble thinking things through? We’ve all made a mess of our accounting once or twice, but if you just can’t figure out how to balance your checkbook or plan the kind of trip you used to enjoy, it may be time to seek help. In fact, a recent study suggests that problems remembering how to handle money foreshadows an Alzheimer’s diagnosis by up to a year.
- Are you having trouble retracing your steps? Everyone misplaces their keys, but most people usually can go back over their steps to find them again. Dementia signs include an inability to retrace your steps to find lost items.
- Are you at a loss for words? We all know about the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, when a word you want is just out of reach. But frequently being unable to come up with the word or phrase you want can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Do you lose your sense of place and time? Forgetting where you are, how you got there, the order of events, or even what day it is — these are all more than just “normal” signs of memory loss.
Other Causes of Forgetfulness
It’s natural to worry about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as causes of your more-than-normal forgetfulness, but you should know there are some other possible causes, including:
- Head injury
- Medication side effects
- Protein deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
When you talk to your doctor about your concerns about memory loss and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, she should also ask questions that will help her find out whether there may be other causes of your problems.
“True dementia cannot be reversed whereas cognitive impairment due to other causes can be reversed” in many circumstances, says Andel.
So if you’re worried, talk to your doctor. At best, you will be reassured that your occasional forgetfulness is normal for your age — and at worse, you will be able to start early with dementia treatment and management strategies.
Published: everyday HEALTH