Distinguish Between Age-Related Forgetfulness and the Early Signs of Dementia

An older woman and her son discuss age-related forgetfulness vs. the early signs of dementia.
Learn how the early signs of dementia differ from common age-related changes.

If you’ve noticed that an older parent seems more forgetful than usual, it is only natural to be concerned. Are these memory lapses a part of typical age-related forgetfulness? Or could they potentially signify a more serious condition and be the early signs of dementia?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease don’t just affect memory; they can also bring about significant changes in behavior and cognitive function. If you notice such changes in a loved one, it’s crucial to take action by scheduling an appointment with a physician. Early intervention can make a world of difference in managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Additionally, if a diagnosis is confirmed, there are steps you can take to establish a routine that fosters independence during the initial stages of the disease, and plan for ways to ensure safety as the disease progresses.

The Alzheimer’s Association outlines 10 common warning signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia and shares examples of typical age-related changes:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, forgetting recently learned information is common. A loved one may struggle with recalling important dates or ask repetitive questions. They may rely on memory aids such as written notes, smartphone reminders, or assistance from friends and family.
    Typical age-related change: Occasionally forgetting names, but remembering them later.
  2. Challenges in planning or problem-solving. Individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia may find it difficult to follow a plan or work with numbers. They may struggle to follow a familiar recipe or keep track of and pay bills on time. Additionally, they may find it difficult to concentrate and may take much longer to complete tasks.
    Typical age-related change: Making errors every so often when managing finances or paying bills.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks. Daily activities such as driving to a familiar location or organizing a grocery list may become increasingly challenging for someone with dementia.
    Typical age-related change. Needing help occasionally with programing the DVR or with the settings on the oven.
  4. Confusion regarding time or place. Alzheimer’s can lead to disorientation regarding dates, seasons, and location.
    Typical age-related change: Brief confusion about the day of the week, usually resolved later.
  5. Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Vision issues are not uncommon for those with Alzheimer’s. Diminished vision can lead to difficulty with balance or performing daily activities. The ability to see contrast and determine colors may also be impacted, creating issues judging distance and driving.
    Typical age-related change: Vision changes related to cataracts or macular degeneration.
  6. New problems with speaking or writing. The onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia may make it difficult for a person to follow and join a conversation. They may struggle with naming familiar objects and may use the wrong name for common items.
    Typical age-related change: Occasional difficulty finding the right word.
  7. Misplacing items and inability to retrace steps. Those with Alzheimer’s may put items in unusual places and struggle to retrace their steps, often accusing others of theft.
    Typical age-related change: Misplacing items, but being able to retrace steps and locate them.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment. Decision-making skills may be impaired and individuals may use poor judgment when dealing with finances, and they may not be keeping up with daily personal care.
    Typical age-related change: Making a mistake once in a while, such as forgetting to pay a monthly bill.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Following conversations may become difficult for an individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s. As a result, they may not want to participate in social gatherings, hobbies, or other favorite pastimes.
    Typical age-related change: Occasional disinterest in social events.
  10. Changes in mood and personality. Personality and mood changes may be some of the first symptoms noticed by family when a loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The person may become depressed, fearful, confused, or suspicious.
    Typical age-related change: Irritation when routine is disrupted.

If a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, the experts at Abrio Home Care are here to help. Our compassionate caregivers are trained to provide support at all stages of the disease, helping each person maintain their independence and dignity.

To learn more about our memory care services, contact us today at 877-71-ABRIO to schedule a free in-home consultation. Together, we can develop a plan of care that will help a loved one live life to the fullest. To learn more about our home care services in Phoenix, Mesa, Yuma, Prescott, Kingman, and the surrounding Arizona communities, please visit our Service Area page.