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Is it Forgetfulness Or Is It Dementia?

As we age, we seem to ask ourselves this question with more frequency. We misplace keys. We can’t think of a word or recall the name of an acquaintance.  Committing a new task to memory seems difficult. How do we know if our forgetfulness is a symptom of getting older or if we’re experiencing dementia? Let’s have a look at how forgetfulness and dementia differ.

AGE-RELATED FORGETFULNESS DEMENTIA
WHAT IS IT? Aging bodies mean changes in capabilities (including in the brain). Progressive, degenerative condition that has multiple forms. Types of dementia include but aren’t limited to: Vascular, Lewy body, frontotemporal, and Alzheimer’s diseases. See stages of dementia here.
CONSIDERED “NORMAL” OR POSSIBLE (Different Individuals Will Have Different Symptoms)
  • Forgetfulness
  • Making a bad decision
  • Forgetting what day it is
  • Searching for the right word to use
  • Forgetting to pay a monthly bill
  • Losing a commonly used item, like keys or glasses
  • Forgetting the name of a recent acquaintance
  • Difficulty driving to a new location
  • Typical mood fluctuations consistent ith personality
  • Confusion
  • Consistently demonstrating poor decision making
  • Forgetting what season it is
  • Struggling to maintain a conversation
  • Experiencing problems with managing finances
  • Misplacing things frequently and being unable to locate them within the house
  • Forgetting the name of a close friend or family member
  • Getting lost while driving in familiar places
  • Dramatic mood swings or changes in personality
  • Problems recalling recent events
  • Problems creating new memories
  • Difficulties concentrating and planning
  • Organizing steps in which to complete a task (such as cooking a meal)
  • Difficulties making decisions
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS Forgetfulness can be caused by other disease, not just dementia. Many diseases of the brain can lead to dementia. These include but aren’t limited to: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Wernicke-Korsakoff
DIAGNOSIS What to do: Rule out dementia and see “Treatment Options” below Diagnosis requires a physician, bloodwork, and scans. There may be testing to “rule out” other diseases as the cause in mental change.
LANGUAGE CHALLENGES
  • Difficulty remembering the right word
  • Aphasia
  • Early evening confusion
  • Difficulty following conversation
VISUAL AND SPATIAL SKILLS
  • Disease-related issues such as visual changes due to cataracts or glaucoma
  • Difficulty estimating distances (thus descending staircases)
  • Perceiving objects in three dimensions
  • Confusion as to the day of the week or date
  • Confusion about location
BEHAVIORAL SYMPTOMS
  • Being jaded
  • Irritation at generational differences
  • Crankiness
  • Temperament Changes
  • Agitation
  • Lack of self-control
  • Roaming
  • Becoming lost
PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS
  • Frustration at “getting older”
  • Depression related to isolation or changes in friend groups
  • Fretfulness
  • Isolation
  • Swings in temperament
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Delusions
TREATMENT OPTIONS Focused on maintaining quality of life. Focused on alleviating symptoms, not curing.
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Supplements
  • Exercise
  • Aromatherapy
  • Art therapy
  • Effective care
  • Good routine and sleep

Still concerned? Talk to your doctor about ruling out dementia. Take a list of the reasons why you feel concerned so there is something tangible to review.

Here’s to life to the fullest,
Tiffany Rubin, Governing Board Member

Resources: 
4 Steps to Understanding a New Diagnosis
What’s the Difference?: Age-Related Memory Loss vs. Dementia (presbyterianhomes.org)
Senile or Old Dementia – Differences Between Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Senility
The Truth About Aging and Dementia

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Call: 302.724.7902
Email: jackie@silverlininghealthcare.com
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Address: 24 Hiawatha Lane
Dover DE 19904