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Age-Related Memory Loss vs Dementia: How to Tell?

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Aging is a natural process, and as we grow older, parts of our brain and body are gradually altered. Some of the changes affect our physical abilities, and others affect us mentally. 

Everyone ages differently. We all experience changes eventually, and there’s no exact timeline to when these changes will occur. 

We can expect to experience some memory loss at some point, but how do we know the difference between normal aging and a condition that affects cognitive functions, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease

When is it time to speak to our family doctor about additional support services or memory care?

The Difference Between Dementia & Memory Loss

Dementia and memory loss have similar symptoms, but are significantly different from each other. How do we distinguish between forgetfulness and a need for memory care?

Memory loss occurs as part of the normal aging process, resulting from a natural decline or slowing of the body. Although the brain begins to slow, a person’s intelligence continues to function as usual. 

Natural memory loss will not:

  • Disrupt your day-to-day life
  • Affect your ability to complete tasks
  • Affect your ability to learn new things

Dementia is a progressive condition resulting from a breakdown of cognitive function. This condition can cause frequently disruptive mental and physical symptoms that gradually worsen. 

Symptoms of dementia effect: 

  • Your daily life
  • Your daily routines
  • Your ability to learn new things
  • Your ability to complete familiar tasks
  • Your relationships

If you suspect your memory loss results from dementia, speak to a medical professional. 

Reducing Your Risk of Dementia

Although age, genetics, and family history play a part in the development of dementia, certain behaviors have been shown to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline, like: 

  • Not smoking
  • Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Being physically active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight for your body type
  • Sleeping well
  • Managing blood sugar

A healthy lifestyle may not prevent dementia, but may help to slow its onset. 

When to Call Your Doctor

Contact your family physician if you notice any of the following signs

  • Repetition: Repeating the same sentences or continuously asking the same questions
  • Disorientation: Getting lost in familiar places
  • Concentration issues: Trouble following lists, directions, or recipes
  • Confusion: Frequently confusing names, places, times, or dates
  • Hygiene issues: Infrequent bathing, unwashed clothing, or a filthy home
  • Poor diet: No interest in a varied diet, or not eating
  • Unsafe behavior: Reckless behavior, or dangerous choices

A doctor can provide a comprehensive check-up and help determine the cause of your symptoms. They may suggest a series of specialized tests and assessments to help find a diagnosis for your memory loss, or provide a referral for a neurologist

Forgetfulness in older adults does not always mean Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are many possible causes for memory loss, like an infection, or depression. Whatever the reason, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan. 

Seniors experiencing memory issues should have more frequent check-ups with their doctor. Your physician will work with you to determine the best follow-up schedule for your unique needs.

Dementia is a Personal Journey

Dementia will often affect our most recent memories, making it more difficult to retain new information, faces, events, and places. Other signs to watch for include: 

  • Memory loss that severely affects daily living
  • Problems with planning
  • Difficulties solving problems
  • Struggling with spatial relationships and visual images
  • Struggling to find words when speaking and writing 
  • Losing items frequently
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from favorite hobbies and activities
  • A decline in socialization
  • Change in temperament and personality

Dementia can be an overwhelming, life-altering diagnosis. Remember, you and your loved ones are not alone. Ask your doctor for additional details about in-house support programs and memory care, or contact Barton House for more information. 

Dementia & Memory Care

Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from a memory care facility’s specially-designed, comfortable, 24-hour care environment. Memory care offers a safe, personalized space that helps improve the quality of life of people with memory loss.

Memory care can benefit your loved one if: 

  • They are unsafe in their current living arrangement
  • Their health is at risk
  • Their care needs are beyond the present caregiver’s abilities
  • They need structure in their day-to-day life
  • They lack social interaction 
  • They would benefit from a calmer environment

Most memory care facilities provide: 

  • Personalized care for memory loss
  • Low staff-to-resident ratios
  • Coordinated care with medical professionals
  • Customized living spaces
  • Natural lighting
  • Reduced noise levels to minimize confusion

Residents in memory care receive various memory-focused therapies, and specially-trained staff provide enriching daily activities designed to stimulate and maintain cognitive abilities.

Supports Are Available

Being diagnosed with dementia can be frightening, but we can help. Book a tour with us today, and discover the compassion and comfort of memory care. Our family is ready to welcome yours!

If you have questions about the difference between memory loss and dementia, don’t be shy; contact the Barton House. Our incredible staff can direct you to the appropriate resources and support for your situation.

Written by Barton House Memory Care

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