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Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer's Disease?

Memory problems often come with aging, but it can help to know the signs to look out for in case they emerge. Research suggests 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older experience some form of memory loss associated with getting older. From forgetting where you put your car keys or eyeglasses to struggling to remember passwords or the name of a school friend, these episodes of forgetfulness can be expected.

Many people who experience lapses in memory worry that they have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The reality is that kinds of memory lapses are usually nothing to worry about, especially if they don’t affect your everyday life.

However, with 5-8% of the global population of adults aged 60 and older affected by dementia, it’s important to understand the difference between these small memory problems and something more significant.

Memory Loss Versus Alzheimer’s

Various parts of the body change as people age, including the brain. These age-related changes can affect memory, meaning many people experience mild forgetfulness — maybe the inability to recall information as quickly as before or difficulty in retaining information when learning something new.

But there are different levels of memory problems, and this type of mild memory loss is caused by old age, not dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects a part of the brain that’s responsible for memory, thought and language. It’s a progressive disease that affects everybody differently, and, in its latter stage, limits people's ability to carry out daily activities.

Being able to identify the difference between mild forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s is difficult, but you can look for certain signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Memory Loss

Mild memory impairment is the normal form of memory loss associated with aging. Some signs and symptoms you may observe include:

  • Forgetting what day it is, but remembering it later
  • Missing a regular monthly payment
  • Losing something occasionally, such as car keys, eyeglasses or wallet
  • Being unable to recall which word to use during a conversation
  • Struggling to remember details of an event that took place a year ago
  • Having difficulty remembering the name of an old acquaintance
  • Being worried about your memory, though friends and loved ones aren’t

If you experience any of these things but are still able to complete tasks as usual and go about your daily life, chances are you’re not affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s. You may be unable to recall things as quickly as your younger self, but it’s not cause for concern.

Identifying the Signs of Alzheimer’s

In the early stages, Alzheimer's symptoms may be very mild and are often indistinguishable from the signs of age-related memory issues. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms become more noticeable. You may find yourself or your loved one:

  • Forgetting about recent events and conversations
  • Misplacing items frequently
  • Forgetting the names of objects, people and places
  • Asking questions repetitively
  • Finding it more difficult to make decisions
  • Forgetting what day or month it is
  • Having difficulty learning new things
  • Struggling to complete familiar everyday tasks
  • Experiencing long periods of confusion

You may also begin to notice certain changes in personality:

  • A reluctance to try new things
  • Increased anxiety or agitation
  • Increased disorientation, causing you or your loved one to wander or become lost
  • Repetitive, obsessive or impulsive behavior
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Hearing or seeing things that other people don’t
  • Mood swings
  • Speech and language problems

Memory Support at Vinson Hall Retirement Community

Many people live full, active and fulfilled lives in an Independent Living setting without memory loss impacting their lives. However, if memory loss symptoms begin to worsen over time and your needs or those of your loved one change, Vinson Hall Retirement Community is here to help.

Vinson Hall Retirement Community offers different levels of care which allows us to adapt to the changing needs of residents while residents remain in familiar surroundings. The Sylvestery, our Memory Care community, is a safe and nurturing environment where residents affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia receive the highest level of care possible.

All caregivers within the community are specially trained in memory care, and the complex is specifically designed, inside and out, for seniors who may be prone to wandering and disorientation. Residents take part in a varied and engaging activities program, keeping them physically, cognitively and socially active, which helps minimize negative behaviors and the effects of memory loss.

Seeking Help With Memory Loss

Not all memory problems are related to dementia. In the majority of cases, small bouts of forgetfulness are simply a result of the aging process. However, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s to ensure you or a loved one receives the care they need.

If you’re worried that you or a loved one is showing signs of memory problems, speak with your doctor or health care professional. You can also speak with one of our caregivers about any concerns. If mild memory loss becomes something more serious, we can provide the additional support you need. Contact us to find out about Vinson Hall Retirement Community’s continuum of care and how we can help you plan for the future.

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