As many of us are well aware, forgetting things a bit more often as we get older is completely normal. For some seniors and their families, however, this can introduce a bit of an issue: How does one spot the difference between standard aging that’s no major concern versus the possible signs that a senior is dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia?
Luckily, for those seniors in the latter group, many high-quality memory care communities are available for comprehensive assistance. For those families or caregivers who are unsure whether a loved one is exhibiting some of the signs of potential dementia or whether these are just normal parts of the aging process — here’s a general primer on common signs in each area, plus how to respond if you notice them.
Signs of Typical Aging
As we noted above, there’s nothing at all wrong with becoming a bit more forgetful as we age. While forgetting things a little more often can be frustrating, it’s often just a simple reality as our brains slow down a little.
Some common occurrences that typically don’t signal much of a concern in this area include:
- Basic absentmindedness or transience: These are two specific, minor brain conditions that, while not irrelevant, aren’t unusual and aren’t considered particularly dangerous or harmful. Absentmindedness refers to certain areas of brain focus — an absentminded person might forget appointments a bit more often because they’re not as mentally engaged in their day-to-day life. Transience is a condition characterized by the removal of older memories, with the goal of making room for the new ones — in fact, some research has indicated that transience is a positive occurrence in the brain, signaling that it remains active.
- Simple forgetfulness: Down related lines, simply forgetting the occasional name or date isn’t anything to worry about. Everyone’s brain is different, and some people naturally have better memories for some things than others.
- Other mental issues: In other cases, separate health conditions may be contributing to memory loss. For instance, people with depression are more likely to experience memory problems. If you’re noticing that a loved one is experiencing some memory loss and they also have other symptoms of depression, it’s worth having a chat with their doctor to rule out any potential causes. To be clear, while these issues may not signal dementia, they can still be significant and should be addressed.
Possible Signs of Dementia
On the flip side of that coin, here are some signs that may indicate the onset of dementia:
- Significant personality changes: One of the earliest and most common signs of dementia is personality changes. This could manifest itself in a loved one becoming more irritable, angry, or withdrawn than they typically are. It’s important to note that not all personality changes mean dementia — but it’s worth being on the lookout for any that seem particularly drastic, especially if memory losses are also being observed.
- Major memory loss, including important or basic information: This is one of the most troubling and easily recognizable signs of dementia. If a senior is forgetting important facts about their lives, such as their address or close family members’ names, it’s likely time to seek out some help.
- Disorientation: In addition to forgetting important details, seniors with dementia may also become disoriented and lost in their own home or even in public. This can be incredibly frightening and dangerous for them as well as anyone around them.
If these or similar signs are being regularly noted in a senior loved one, caregivers should obtain medical assistance and look to determine whether dementia may be at play.