Dementia vs. healthy aging

We’ve all been there. We have misplaced our car keys (again) or missed a monthly payment. But when it comes to our aging parents, should we worry? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 main differences between dementia and just normal aging (1). 

 

  1. Forgetfulness makes it hard to handle daily tasks.

This is the most common early sign of dementia. If you notice your aging parent forgetting important dates or events, asking the same questions repeatedly, or relying on reminder notes, you do not want to ignore this. 

Healthy aging: 

Occasionally forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later. 

 

  1. Struggling with planning or solving problems.

Everybody makes a mistake sometimes. If you notice your loved one continuing to miss monthly bills, it could be a warning sign of memory problems. 

Healthy aging: 

Sometimes missing a bill payment here and there. 

 

  1. Struggling with everyday tasks. 

Forgot how to set the microwave? Forgot how to use the TV remote? Some people struggling with dementia have trouble driving to a familiar location or remembering the rules of their favorite game. If they have these issues doing regular activities they are used to doing, it may be a sign of a more serious memory issue. 

Healthy aging: 

If your loved one needs help occasionally with these kinds of things it is nothing to worry about. 

 

  1. Confusion about time or location. 

It has been reported that people with Alzheimer’s (a kind of dementia) can lose track of dates, time, and even locations. It is normal to forget where you parked your car but if it happens regularly, it may be a good idea to check with your family doctor. 

Healthy aging: 

Not remember what day of the week it is but figuring it out later. 

 

  1. Trouble understanding visual images and vision changes.

Some individuals with dementia may experience difficulty reading, balancing, judging distance, and these can lead to issues with driving. 

Healthy aging: 

Aging adults may experience the clouding of the eye also known as, cataracts. This causes blurry vision and may slowly develop as we age. 

 

  1. Speaking or writing problems. 

Joining or following a conversation is often seen as a sign seen in dementia patients. People with Alzheimer’s might stop in the middle of their sentence and have no idea how to continue. They might also struggle with vocabulary or finding the right word to call things such as calling a watch a “hand-clock.” 

Healthy aging: 

It is completely normal to sometimes have trouble finding the right word and eventually remembering. 

 

  1. Difficulty retracing steps. 

If you notice your parent places items in unusual places and can’t seem to retrace their steps no matter how hard they try, this could be a more serious issue.

Healthy aging: 

Losing the remote control, eyeglasses, or keys from time to time. 

 

  1. Poor judgment or decision-making. 

Another sign of dementia is poor judgment. It has been known that Alzheimer’s patients tend to give out large amounts of money to telemarketers and make bad financial decisions. They may also wear a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of winter. If your loved one is usually great at keeping up with their personal hygiene and is usually well-groomed, they may all of a sudden stop this due to their lack of good judgment. If you notice a pattern of these actions or decisions, you may want to look into it further.

Healthy aging: 

We are human. We all make mistakes and making a bad decision once in a while is completely normal. 

 

  1. Avoiding socialization. 

People with dementia tend to remove themselves from social events which they used to enjoy. It becomes difficult to keep track of their favorite sport or hobbies. The reason they become less social is because of the changes they are experiencing. They feel confused and are not comfortable socializing. 

Healthy aging: 

Feeling tired of work, family and social obligations from time to time.

 

  1. Mood and personality changes. 

Frustration, confusion and fear are a few of the many mood changes you see in people with dementia. If you notice they are becoming easily upset and are not being their usual selves, you might want to look into it. 

Healthy aging: 

Anger is completely normal and experiencing it in response to certain situations is okay from time to time.

Conclusion: 

It is important to note that mild memory loss is a completely normal part of aging and it does not necessarily mean your parent has dementia. Dementia can only be diagnosed by a health professional. 

 

Disclaimer: 

This blog is made for educational purposes only as well as general information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your physician/doctor. Always consult your physician for specific medical advice.