How to Distinguish Between Normal Aging and Early Onset Dementia

Please note: Information in this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice. For medical advice for your own personal situation, please contact your doctor or health care professional.

How can one distinguish between early onset dementia and normal aging?

I typically get asked this question when someone is trying to self-diagnose. Maybe a situation has presented itself that caused some worry in your cognitive awareness?

Forgetting where you left your keys is normal. Putting your keys in the freezer would not be normal.

Forgetting the reason you left one room to do something in another is normal. (There is actually a reason one’s brain reassesses one’s surroundings when going thru a doorway. A doorway literally signals to our brain that we are in a new situation and territory and it is assessing for safety.) Forgetting where the bathroom or bedroom is in your own home is not normal.

Driving your car to a familiar place, such as the grocery store that you’ve visited often for years, and forgetting where you are, is not normal.

Sweeping lapses in one’s memory of a half of a century ago is not a concern. Sweeping lapses in one’s memory of this past week is not normal.

Forgetting the names of your third-grade teacher or a family member that you weren’t very familiar with is normal. Forgetting the name of someone that you have been familiar with for years such as a spouse or a neighbor, is not normal.

If you keep a medication box and notice there are many times and days of missed opportunities to take your medications, that’s a concern. One time sporadically is not a concern but an overall pattern of missed doses is a concern.

There are a lot of examples of things that would be a concern and not normal. None of these are age-related. Old age does not bring about sweeping changes of cognitive impairment or large lapses in memory. One should not expect that one’s mind or brain just begins to fade or die because of old age. If there is a pattern of concerns then it should be addressed with your doctor.

About the Author: Michelle L. Belton is the owner of Companion Home Care Inc, providing non-medical senior home care in Roanoke, VA since 2004. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) and has been caring for seniors with Alzheimer's disease and dementia for over 15 years.

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Companion Home Care Inc
424 Campbell Ave SW
Roanoke, VA 24016
(540) 981-2255