Is It Normal Memory Loss or Dementia?

Is It Normal Memory Loss or Dementia?

It’s normal for seniors to experience a certain level of memory loss, but you want to keep an eye out for what may be the early signs of dementia. Thankfully, there are ways to differentiate between the two, and a variety of tools to use to help decipher which is which.

Read on to find out how you can tell the difference between normal memory loss and dementia, and how memory care communities in Peoria, AZ could help:

Normal Forgetfulness Versus Signs of Dementia

Everyday forgetfulness can occur at any age. Everyone has moments where they forget where they left their car keys, miss someone’s birthday, or can’t remember the name of an old movie. Most parents have accidentally called one of their children by the wrong name.

The brain ages just like the rest of the body does, it’s a normal part of getting older. When that happens, these absent-minded moments become more frequent. One may find it’s more difficult to learn new skills as you age,  or you may lose items like car keys more often. Mild forgetfulness that doesn’t disrupt someone’s everyday life usually isn’t dementia.

In addition to mild forgetfulness, some normal signs of memory loss include:

  • Occasionally making bad or ill-informed decisions
  • Forgetting the day of the week or the exact date
  • Not being able to come up with the right word in casual conversation
  • Occasionally misplacing small but commonly used items like car keys or glasses
  • Forgetting things that were learned recently
  • Getting lost in an unfamiliar place
  • Missing or forgetting to pay a monthly bill

When Could These Signs of Normal Memory Loss Indicate Dementia?

The signs of normal memory loss mentioned above don’t necessarily mean your loved one won’t get dementia. Usually, the signs they may have dementia are more severe than the so-called “senior moments” listed above. Read on for the signs you should be more cautious of.

  • Constantly making bad or ill-informed decisions
  • Forgetting the month, season, or year
  • Difficulty with carrying on a conversation
  • No longer able to handle finances due to forgetfulness
  • Constantly misplacing important items
  • Forgetting the names of loved ones
  • Getting lost in a familiar place

What Are the Most Common Signs of Dementia?

  • Memory loss that has a significant impact on everyday life
  • Familiar tasks become difficult to perform. This can include basic routine tasks, such as getting dressed or preparing a meal. INormal memory loss can mean a person forgets to prepare a meal or take medication until later, but a sign of dementia can pop up if a person not only forgets to do the task, but also forgets how to do it.
  • Language issues. This is beyond occasionally forgetting the right word for something. Instead, those with dementia can often forget very common and simple words. Another sign of dementia can be saying words that don’t make sense with a current conversation.
  • Impaired judgment that gets to a point where it becomes a health and safety concern. Everyone makes poor judgments from time to time, but a person with dementia may make questionable decisions that put them or others at serious risk. This can include not doing anything while experiencing symptoms of something serious, or it can mean not putting on a jacket when it’s freezing outside.
  • Problems with abstract thinking. This is different from occasionally having issues with numbers. This sign of dementia is when a person is no longer able to recognize what numbers or symbols mean.
  • Putting things in strange places. This is beyond misplacing common items like keys or glasses. Instead, a person puts items where they definitely do not belong. For instance, you may find the remote in a refrigerator, instead of between couch cushions. Dementia could be possible if these sorts of strange misplacements become frequent occasions.
  • Change in personality. If a loved one starts acting very out of the ordinary, it could be a sign of a greater problem than just old age. These aren’t subtle changes that can happen to personalities over time. Instead, it’s actions that are strange and very out of character. Mood swings could also be a sign.

What Are Some Other Signs of Dementia?

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Being easily and frequently agitated
  • Difficulty with motor function
  • Wandering and getting lost easily

As you can see, the above signs cover a range of things, and some are very similar to what could also pass as normal memory loss. Others are incredibly serious and scary.

An important thing to remember is that signs of dementia vary depending on the person, and there can also be different root causes of this condition. Always speak with a health professional if you suspect you or your loved one might be exhibiting signs of dementia.

What Are Other Conditions That May Cause Memory Loss?

Normal memory loss and dementia aren’t the only causes of cognitive problems in older adults. In fact, many aren’t aware of the seemingly unrelated medical issues that can be the culprit of sudden memory changes.

Some of these potential diagnoses are:

  • Side effects of certain prescription medications
  • Depression and other mental health issues
  • Infections of the urinary tract, respiratory system, or even sepsis
  • Asthma or COPD
  • Issues with the thyroid
  • Cardiac issues
  • Blood pressure issues (high or low)
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney or liver failure

What If I Suspect My Loved One Has Dementia?

Before you make any major decisions, encourage your loved one to consult with a health professional, as we mentioned before. Even if it’s not dementia, memory loss can still be a sign of another serious medical condition and it’s better to be safe than sorry. In addition to confirming a diagnosis, physicians are incredibly important for the next steps like a referral to a memory care community.

You can find more information about our Peoria memory care community on the Mission at Agua Fria Senior Living website. You can also schedule an in-person tour right on our website, and see all we can offer our residents!