The signs of dementia and normal aging are similar. Let's see if you can pick the difference.
Your loved one is worried you. Lately, they have begon to do and say things that just do not seem like their normal self. With all the attention paid to both Alzheimer's disease and dementia, scary thoughts are a common occurrence. However, before you jump to any conclusions, it is important to understand that there is a list of signs associated with clinical memory problems – many of these mimic natural aging. There is a difference between dementia and natural aging. If you become familiar with the signs of dementia, you can more determine determine what the problem is with yourself, your parent, spouse, or loved one.
1. Memory Loss Affects Daily Living
Memory loss is recognized as one of the first and most common signs of dementia. However, being forgetful can also be a normal part of aging. To make the distinction, you need to look at frequency. Is this happening on a regular basis? Is the person forgetting things that seem random? Maybe they forget things that you just discussed yesterday, or even earlier in the day. However, forgetting somebody's name, or when they are supposedly to visit the doctor, is probably a normal part of aging.
2. Difficulties Solving Problems
The largest red flag with this sign of dementia is if your loved one suddenly experiences difficulties performing tasks that have always come easily to them. An aging person may have successfully navigated their finances for decades, only to have things become a problem recently. Finances are a very important area to keep a close eye on; it's easier to see the signs of dementia when it comes to money. However, making simple calculation mistakes in a checkbook is normal for aging loved ones – which is quite different from someone with the early symptoms of dementia who is unable to handle their daily finances.
3. Familiar Tasks Cause Difficulty
There are certain things that people used to do "in their sleep" … the types of talents and strengths which vary from individual to individual. If these familiar tasks have suddenly become an issue for someone you care about, this is an indication of dementia. Again, getting a feel for how concerned this is becoming a matter of degrees. Some confusion is normal for people as they age. Do not automatically assume that Alzheimer's is just around the corner if your parent loses their way while driving home. If it happens with increasing frequency, concern is warranted.
4. Trouble With the Passing of Time
This can be a difficult sign to understand. People who are beginning to suffer from dementia can have a very hard time dealing with time and place. They often pick up the past and set it down in places where it does not fit. This causes confusion about where they are in their own life, as well as where their loved ones fit. This does not usually happen right away, but in little bits, over time. If your parent does something like forget an appointment, or have a momentary blank look when someone they know and love walks in the door, this could be normal.
5. Visual Glitches
This sign of dementia should always be assessed in relation to the others. A physical change, such as difficulty seeing and interpreting visual signals, can have both physical and mental roots. Just because your loved one is not gauging distances correctly does not necessarily mean that dementia is inevitable. Coupled with other problems, however, it can create another benchmark to measure by.
There are five other signs of dementia:
6. Communication issues in speech or writing.
7. Losing things or becoming lost.
8. Display bad judgment.
9. Withdrawing socially.
10. Personality changes.
Any of these ten signs of dementia can be displayed at one time or another as a normal part of the aging process. Seeing even several of these in a mild way does not mean that your loved one is succumbing to dementia. However, knowing the signs can help you better assess what the problem is and seek the help that you need. If these occur at the extremes and with increasing frequency, then more attention is warranted.