Signs of Alzheimer’s Compared with Typical Age-Related Changes

September 13, 2021

How does Alzheimer’s or dementia diff from normal aging?

As we age into our 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and beyond, it is normal for one to be a little forgetful. Many people may take a bit longer to remember facts and, or become more easily distracted. Although frustrating, most of these changes are normal. But when these changes start to affect our daily life is when it becomes troublesome.

Below are 10 signs of Alzheimer’s compared to typical age-related changes to help you understand what is normal aging. If you feel that you or your loved one is beyond what is typical, you should visit to a physician who can diagnose cognitive impairments.

Signs of Alzheimer’s DementiaTypical Age-Related Changes
Memory loss that disrupts daily life: One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s dementia is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (for example, reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things that used to be handled on one’s own.
Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
Challenges in planning or solving problems: Some people experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe, keeping track of monthly bills or counting change. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure: People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or record a television show.
Confusion with time or place: People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they forget where they are or how they got there.
Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
Vision changes related to cataracts, glaucoma or agerelated macular degeneration.
New problems with words in speaking or writing: People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a watch a “hand clock”).
Sometimes having trouble
finding the right word.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: People with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places and lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
Misplacing things from time
to time and retracing steps to
find them.
Decreased or poor judgment: People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
Making a bad decision once in a while.
Withdrawal from work or social activities: People with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
Changes in mood and personality: The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zones.
Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.


Additional Resources on Dementia Care:

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