Some changes occur with age, but memory problems that impact daily living are not a normal part of aging. Recognizing the difference enables you to seek a diagnosis (it might not be Alzheimer’s) and begin appropriate treatment. The following changes should be addressed by a physician:
- Memory loss disrupting daily life: Forgetting new information or important dates/events, asking the same question repeatedly, relying on memory aides/family members for reminders previously unneeded.
Normal: Sometimes forgetting names/appointments, but remembering them later.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems: Challenges in ability to develop/follow a plan, trouble following familiar recipes or handling monthly bills, difficulty concentrating.
Normal: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks: Forgetting how to use the coffee pot, new difficulties managing a budget or remembering the rules of a game.
Normal: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
- Confusion with time/place: Losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time, forgetting where you are or how you got there.
Normal: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
- Trouble understanding visual images/spatial relationships: Difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color/contrast.
Normal: Vision changes related to cataracts.
- New problems with words in speaking/writing: Trouble following/joining a conversation, stopping in the middle of a conversation and being unable to continue, new challenges using/understanding vocabulary, problems capturing words.
Normal: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: Putting things in unusual places and forgetting where, accusing people of stealing.
Normal: Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.
- Decreased or poor judgment: Using poor judgment when dealing with money, wearing inappropriate clothing during a season.
Normal: Making a bad decision once in a while.
- Withdrawal from work/social activities: Pulling back from recreational, social, faith, work or sports activities.
Normal: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
- Changes in mood and personality: Increased confusion, suspicion, depression, fearfulness or anxiousness, becoming easily upset in new places.
Normal: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when routine is disrupted.
Questions? Contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 toll-free Helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org.