As we age, our brains change and we may experience an overall reduced ability to remember things as sharply and accurately as before. Some memory errors are a normal part of aging.
Older adults may notice difficulty managing multiple tasks at one time or retrieving specific words or details when engaging in conversation. Speed of processing, problem solving and reaction time are executive functions of the brain that slowly decline with age. It’s common for individuals age 65 and older to encounter T.O.T., also known as “Tip of the Tongue” syndrome, which occurs when an individual is unable to recall information. You may find yourself forgetting names of people, misplacing your keys or forgetting an appointment. These are all natural parts of the aging process; however, there are warning signs that may indicate more serious health issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is a general term for any decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia—progressive degeneration of brain tissue due to tangles and plaques in the brain. The cause is unknown, and it’s the most common type of dementia. It’s also irreversible.
Below are some of the characteristics of dementia and Alzheimer’s that shouldn’t be ignored:
- Recognizing common objects is difficult
- Forgetting how to perform everyday tasks
- Getting lost or disoriented in familiar places
- Following directions becomes hard
- Missing appointments repeatedly
- Lacking awareness, decreased or poor judgment
- Shifting behaviorally, mentally and emotionally
- Changing appearance (grooming/hygiene, weight loss)
- Confusion about time, people, places
- Repeating phrases in same conversation
- Learning new things with repeated practice is challenging
- Depending on loved ones for assistance with daily living
If you identify some of these signs in yourself, a friend or neighbor, consult medical advice from a trusted health care professional.
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