Alzheimer’s Disease vs. Normal Memory Loss

If you find yourself worried about some of your recent bouts of forgetfulness, you’re not alone. Needing those extra reminders, like sticky notes on your fridge for upcoming appointments or setting alerts in your phone to take your medications, are often necessary for older adults. However, many seniors start to worry that their “senior moments” of forgetting things might be a sign of something more serious, like Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Memory Loss in Seniors – What’s Normal?

It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process. The memory loss that comes with Alzheimer’s interferes with your daily life, affecting your ability to perform a variety of daily tasks and activities. With normal, age-related memory loss, you’ll eventually remember what it is you’ve forgotten.

Your ability to recall information declines naturally as you age. Additionally, hormones and proteins that help to generate new brain cells also decrease with age, along with the blood flow to brain, which can greatly impact cognitive abilities. Because of these changes, it’s not uncommon for seniors to cite moments of forgetfulness.

There are a few other reasons seniors tend to have issues with their memories, such as:

  • Emotional and physical issues: When you’re stressed out or feel anxious, you tend to become more forgetful. Additionally, depression can also cause memory problems, and these types of emotional problems are often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. Physically, seniors can also have trouble falling and staying asleep, which often can often lead to a foggy brain the next day.
  • Medical conditions: If you have certain health conditions such as blood clots, thyroid, kidney or liver disorders, these can impact your memory and cognition.
  • Side effects of medications: It’s common for older adults to take a variety of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, so if you do, make sure you know the potential side effects. Many medications may cause memory problems, so talk to your doctor if you notice any major changes when you start a new medication.

As far as the types of forgetfulness that are associated with normal aging, you might find that you sometimes misplace your keys, wallet or reading glasses. Or, you get distracted while reading the newspaper and have to start a story over from the beginning. You might forget about an appointment if it wasn’t written down somewhere or mix up family member’s names. These occasional lapses of memory are not generally anything to be too concerned about.

Common Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

However, not all forgetfulness is not simply due to your age. The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult to diagnose properly, although experts do agree that the sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin to help slow the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, at this time there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans over the age of 65, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease in which brain cells, nerve cells and nerve connections progressively expire. Unlike normal age-related memory loss, the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease is more severe and affects larger regions of the brain, leading to a disruption in your everyday life. Some of the most common Alzheimer’s symptoms include:

  • Confusing the words for everyday objects
  • Frequently getting lost or disoriented familiar places
  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks, like balancing a checkbook or putting on clothes
  • Withdrawing socially from friends and family
  • Forgetting how to do activities you’ve always enjoyed
  • Falling victim to a scam targeting seniors or displaying poor judgment
  • Completely forgetting a loved one’s name who you see regularly
  • Trouble recalling information about a very recent event

Alzheimer’s disease will ultimately affect your relationships, hobbies and social life – unlike normal memory loss, which can simply be annoying or frustrating, Alzheimer’s is a disabling form of cognitive decline. If you notice you’re experiencing any of the above signs of Alzheimer’s disease, make sure to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Person-Centered Memory Care at our Springpoint Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Springpoint offers an exclusive memory care program at several of our continuing care retirement communities. Our Connections: A Dementia Care Model of Excellence is uniquely designed to enhance the physical, cognitive and social well-being of each resident, allowing them to continue to make meaningful connections with their loved ones.

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