Memory Loss vs. Normal Aging: How to Tell the Difference

Memory Loss vs. Normal Aging: How to Tell the Difference

Sep 05 2019

If an adult child notices changes in an aging parent, it can cause them to worry. Many times, family members aren’t sure if the changes are a normal part of growing older or if they are early warning signs of something more serious. This is especially true for red flags commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as forgetfulness.

While memory loss is a classic sign of Alzheimer’s, there are other medical conditions that closely mimic the disease. If you find yourself wondering about one of your aging parents, it may be helpful to learn more about the early symptoms of the disease. You may also want to know about a few health issues that might present like Alzheimer’s, but really aren’t.

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, early warning signs of the disease can include the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss that interferes with daily life
  • Trouble holding up a conversation
  • Difficulty concentrating, especially for reading or writing
  • Misplacing belongings around the home
  • Losing track of time and what day it is
  • Struggling to complete familiar tasks
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Getting lost going to and from familiar places
  • Making frequent mistakes with personal finances
  • Change in personality or disposition
  • Withdrawing from religious organization or favorite pastimes
  • Loss of problem-solving or planning skills
  • Forgetting to attend personal appointments or important events

While the symptoms outlined above might be the result of Alzheimer’s disease or a similar form of dementia, they may also be caused by something else.

8 Medical Conditions that Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease

If you see a pattern of changes in your senior loved one, take time to document them. Then encourage your family member to allow you to accompany them on an appointment with their primary care physician so you can share your concerns.

A physician will usually conduct a physical exam and order blood work to rule out other health conditions that have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. These alternative conditions can include:

  1. Thyroid disease
  2. Depression
  3. Dehydration
  4. Infection (especially bladder infection)
  5. Medication side effect
  6. Interaction between medications
  7. Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  8. Uncontrolled diabetes

Fortunately, most of these are medical issues that are treatable with proper interventions.

If the physician rules out all of the above, the next step may be to refer the older adult to a neurologist for more testing. Because there isn’t a definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease, the neurologist will have their own protocols for making a diagnosis. It may include brain imaging tests, such as a CT scan, an MRI, or a PET scan.

Searching for Alzheimer’s Care

“What’s Next After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s?” is a helpful resource for understanding what to do if a loved one is diagnosed with some form of dementia. While the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be difficult news for the family to hear, it’s important to know there are steps you can take to help the senior live their best quality of life. One of which is moving to an Alzheimer’s care community.

These dedicated senior care communities are staffed with caregivers who have received specialized training to learn how to support seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease. Life-enrichment programs, dining services, and even the physical environment are designed with the unique needs of adults with memory loss.

One of our experienced senior care advisors can help you find an Alzheimer’s care community near you. There is never any cost for seniors or family members for our assistance. Call 888-514-6461 to learn more and get started today!

Photo by Aleksandar Popovski on Unsplash

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