Ever walked into a room and forgot why you went there? Or met a friend, recognized their face, but couldn’t summon their name? It’s embarrassing, but probably nothing to worry about. These types of memory lapses are common among older adults.
Experts agree that occasional senior moments are perfectly normal. Frustrating perhaps, but they don’t necessarily mean you’re in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, most older adults don’t get Alzheimer’s. Fewer than 1 in 5 people ages 65 and older and less than half of those 85 and older have the disease.
Alzheimer’s Symptoms vs. Normal Memory Loss
Our memories begin to wane as we age for a number of reasons. The region of the brain known as the hippocampus starts to deteriorate, which affects our ability to form and retrieve memories. Poor circulation can also affect your memory and cognitive skills. Additionally, some hormones and proteins that protect and repair brain cells may decline with age.
It can be difficult for a nonmedical professional to determine whether the memory loss is truly something to be concerned about. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, milder symptoms can be similar to normal memory loss that comes with age. To help determine what is normal memory loss and what could be symptoms of Alzheimer’s, look for these signs:
Normal Memory Loss
These types of memory lapses are generally considered normal among older adults:
- Forgetting where you left certain things, like a book, glasses, phone or keys
- Missing an appointment because it was not written down on a calendar
- Difficulty recalling information about a story you just heard or read about
- Entering a room and forgetting why you went there
- Calling loved ones by the wrong name, e.g., calling your grandson your son’s name
- Forgetting the names of new acquaintances
- Getting distracted easily and moving on to another project before finishing the first one
- Trouble retrieving information that’s on the tip of your tongue
While it’s difficult to properly diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages, experts agree that the sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin that may slow the progression of the disease. Some of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s include:
- Trouble recalling the right word for everyday objects
- Getting disoriented or lost in familiar places
- Difficulty performing everyday tasks, such as balancing a checkbook or putting on clothes
- Forgetting how to do activities you’ve always done
- Misusing or mixing up words
- Trouble making good life choices or displaying poor judgment
- Forgetting a loved one’s name
- Difficulty recalling recent events
See your doctor if you’re concerned about memory loss.
If you’re having trouble remembering things or are concerned about memory loss in a loved one, see your doctor. They can identify any underlying conditions that may be affecting memory, such as stress, dehydration, depression, medication side effects, diabetes, thyroid problems or substance abuse. There are many possible causes of memory problems which, once identified, can be treated so your memory can improve.
A personal approach to memory care.
If someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, we can help. At each of our memory care communities, we get to know each resident’s life story to understand their past and learn their preferences. It helps us connect with residents on a meaningful level and create care plans that meet their unique needs.
In addition, we use a variety of therapies — including music therapy, pet therapy, reminiscence therapy and brain training games — to evoke memories, lift spirits and foster friendships.
To learn more about our approach to memory care and how it can help your loved one thrive, contact us. We’re here to help you every step of the way.