When it comes to aging, some memory loss can come with the territory. It’s normal for older adults to miss a monthly payment, forget to turn out the lights, or occasionally lose their keys. But when it becomes difficult to remember the date of an important event, a cherished family recipe, or if you or a loved one has had trouble remembering common words, it’s time to seek medical attention.
Age-related dementia is associated with a decline in mental ability that interferes with everyday life. The most common type of age-related dementia is Alzheimer’s, which accounts for as many as 80% of age related dementia cases. If you’re worried that you or your loved one may have more than just a case of absentmindedness, the list below could help you determine if it’s time to call the doctor.
Seven Signs of Age-Related Dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Memory loss that disrupts life. Some dates – like a grandchild’s birthday or a wedding anniversary – are hard to forget, but if you or your loved one are having a difficult time remembering special dates, it may cause for concern. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s or age-related dementia is the memory loss. If your loved asks for the same information over and over or is relying heavily on electronic reminders, they may be in the early stages dementia.
- Difficulty problem solving. If following a recipe, balancing the checkbook, or other task that requires concentration and critical thinking becomes challenging, talk to your doctor – especially if it happens on a regular basis or if the tasks take longer to complete than usual. The loss of ability to work with numbers and perform more complex tasks could be an indication of age-related dementia.
- Time or place confusion. Those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia can have difficulty remembering what day it is, have trouble understanding where they are, and can even lose the ability to know if something is happening in the present time.
- Spatial issues. Adding to the challenges of being confused by time and place, is the difficulty those with age-related dementia have with depth perception, reading, and the capability of seeing color and contrast. These issues can make it difficult to drive or even navigate walking around the home or a store.
- Problems with words and speaking. If your aging loved one stops midsentence, repeats the same phrase, or cannot remember the names of common objects, it could be a sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Changes in mood or personality. If your normally good-natured loved one suddenly becomes irritable, angry or depressed, it could indicate early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. People with age-related dementia can become frustrated and anxious, especially if they are in unfamiliar, new places.
- Decreased or poor judgment. Older adults living with dementia could be more likely to fall victim to online scams or give large sums of money away to telemarketers. That’s because, as the illness progresses, they are likely to have some difficulty when making the right decisions. In addition, loved ones with dementia may forget to bathe or perform routine housekeeping.
Treating Age-Related Dementia: The First Steps
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of the signs above, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a doctor who will perform an evaluation and possibly make a referral to a specialist like a neurologist, psychiatrist, or geriatrician for additional tests.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a checklist, downloadable from their website, that you or your senior loved one can bring to the doctor’s appointment to help better assess the condition. Remember, early detection of age-related dementia and Alzheimer’s gives you more time to plan your future independently.