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Alzheimer’s vs. Age-related changes
Almost everyone shows a decline in mental sharpness as we age. But don’t confuse typical age-related changes with Alzheimer’s. With Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia that generally strikes those over 65 years old, the decline is more severe and signs of onset more specific. If you notice one or more of the following signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone else, contact a doctor to arrange for a more complete evaluation.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Memory loss is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s and includes forgetting recently learned information. Signs include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and an increased reliance on memory aids like notes.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include sometimes forgetting names or appointments, then remembering those details later.
Problem-solving and planning challenges
Among the signs is an inability to keep track of monthly bills and perform basic math, trouble following a familiar recipe, problems in developing or following a plan, and trouble concentrating.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
It can often be hard for people with Alzheimer’s to complete daily tasks like driving to a familiar store, changing TV channels and remembering how to play a favorite game.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include sometimes needing help to manage household technology.
Confusion with time or place
The passage of time can be confusing for people with Alzheimer’s. They may lose track of dates and be confused about how they got to a specific place.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include getting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out right away.
Trouble understanding visual images and special relationships
Some vision problems are a sign of Alzheimer’s as people have difficulty reading, determining colors and judging distance. This can cause a problem with driving.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include vision changes due to cataracts.
New problems with spoken and written words
Alzheimer’s may make it hard for some people to follow or join in a conversation. In other cases, they may stop speaking in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue. They may repeat themselves, struggle with finding the right word or call things by the wrong name, such as using “bird” for “airplane.” Some people simply stop speaking at all.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include occasional trouble finding the correct word.
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace their steps
People with Alzheimer’s may lose things, have trouble recalling where they put things, and may put things in unusual places. It may occur more frequently over time, and the confusion may cause them to accuse others of stealing.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include simply misplacing things, but retracing one’s steps to find them again.
Alzheimer’s can cause people to experience changes in their ability to judge people and situations. This can also mean they pay less attention than usual to grooming and personal hygiene.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include occasionally making a bad decision.
Mood and personality changes
Some people with Alzheimer’s become confused, depressed, anxious, fearful and suspicious because of the changes taking place in their lives. They may become easily upset and their mood and personalities can change quickly.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include being set in one’s ways and becoming irritated when a routine is disrupted.
Sometimes, people begin to remove themselves from social activities when they recognize the early changes due to Alzheimer’s.
- Typical age-related changes that are not a sign of Alzheimer’s include feeling overwhelmed and weary of work, family and social activities
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