Woman helping her husband with Alzheimer’s disease

Is it Alzheimer’s or Normal Memory Loss?

It happens to the best of us as we get older. We get all the way to the grocery store, realize we’ve left our shopping list at home and are unable to recall more than two items on that list. Or, we walk out of the mall and wander from aisle to aisle, with no idea where we’ve parked the car.

These momentary lapses in memory are jokingly referred to as “senior moments.” Experts agree that in general, there is no need to become alarmed over these instances of minor forgetfulness. However, when memory loss is combined with other issues, such as changes in personality or mood, or when it begins to disrupt daily life, there is a strong chance something more serious is occurring.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. A progressive disease, Alzheimer’s symptoms gradually worsen over time as brain function continues to decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of all dementia cases.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, healthy lifestyle choices and certain new treatments may delay some of the symptoms. Receiving the proper amount of care can also improve quality of life in individuals with Alzheimer’s.

Normal Memory Loss vs. Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Normal aging leads to changes in the brain, especially in regard to memory and learning. Molecules known as free radicals may damage neurons, while other neurons simply shrink as you age. High blood pressure can also damage brain neurons. These conditions can make it difficult to recall recently-learned information, like remembering your daughter’s new friend’s name.

However, the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease is more severe and affects larger regions of the brain. This specific type of dementia occurs when high levels of proteins inside and outside brain cells make it difficult for the cells to stay healthy and communicate correctly with each other. Alzheimer’s ultimately leads to the death of nerve cells and the loss of brain tissue.

As a comparison, normal memory loss associated with aging includes:

  • Walking into a room and forgetting what you needed
  • Misplacing items, like your glasses, purse, etc.
  • Forgetting the name of a person you just met
  • Becoming easily distracted, moving from project to project without ever completing one
  • Missing an appointment because it was not written down on a calendar
  • Calling a loved one by the wrong name- like addressing your daughter by your sister’s name
  • Trouble retrieving information that’s on the tip of your tongue

Alzheimer’s symptoms, on the other hand, include:

  • Getting disoriented or lost in familiar places
  • Mixing up the words for everyday objects
  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks, like balancing a checkbook or putting on clothes
  • Forgetting how to do activities you’ve always enjoyed
  • Displaying poor judgment, or falling prey to a senior scam
  • Forgetting a loved one’s name altogether
  • Withdrawing socially from friends and family
  • Difficulty recalling information about a very recent event

In this video, John H. Schumann, M.D., President of the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa shares more about how to tell if your loved one is experiencing these signs of Alzheimer’s disease or is just aging normally.

Nationally-Recognized Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care at Saint Simeon’s

Find compassionate, individualized memory care and support at the memory center at Saint Simeon’s. We offer a comfortable, home-like setting staffed by professionals specifically trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, with innovative services and amenities that allow residents to thrive. For more information about applying for admission to our memory center, please contact us today.

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