How to tell the difference between dementia and normal aging

A third of people who notice symptoms of dementia in themselves or a loved one remain silent for a month or more, according to a new UK survey Getty Images

A third of people who notice symptoms of dementia in themselves or a loved one remain silent for a month or more, according to a new UK survey

Only 15% of the 1,100 patients and carers surveyed immediately voiced their observations and 11% have not yet done so, according to the survey released Monday by the London Alzheimer’s Society. Participants included diagnosed dementia patients and their caregivers, as well as potential dementia patients and their caregivers.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed waited more than six months before seeking medical help, the survey found. The most common reason for the silence was not fear of the disease, which is generally progressive. Rather, those affected did not know exactly which symptoms are associated with normal aging and which with dementia.

Confusion, stigma and fear surrounding the condition – which will affect a third of people at some point in their lives – is delaying diagnosis and treatment, Alzheimer’s Society CEO Kate Lee said in a press release about the study.

“We can’t keep avoiding the ‘d’ word,” she said. “We have to fight dementia directly.”

How to tell the difference between old age and dementia

“Dementia is definitely not normal aging,” explains Dr. John Schumann – senior medical director of Oak Street Health, a chain of primary care clinics serving older adults wealth.

dr David Reuben, director of the multicampus program in geriatrics, medicine, and control at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, agrees. He equates aging, a normal biological phenomenon, with a “computer processor in your brain that doesn’t work quite as fast.” An example: If a word or a phrase is “on the tip of your tongue” and you say: “Give me a few minutes, then it will come to your mind again.” Such retrieval deficits are “very common in old age”, says he.

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Dementia is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders associated with a progressive or persistent loss of mental ability, ranging from mild to severe, with Alzheimer’s being the most common. While some cognitive “slowing down” can occur as part of the normal aging process, experts say the symptoms of dementia are unambiguous and signs of disease.

According to the National Institute on Aging, signs that you or a loved one may have dementia — and not just normal aging — include:

  • Ask the same question over and over again
  • I have a hard time following instructions like recipes
  • Getting lost in a place you know well
  • More and more confusion about time, places and people
  • Not taking care of yourself, including poor diet, forgetting to bathe or shower, or unsafe behavior

Making a bad decision, missing a monthly payment, or losing something from time to time is normal, the agency said. But frequently making bad decisions, having trouble paying your monthly bills, and frequently misplacing things (and not being able to find them) isn’t.

What to do if you are afraid of dementia

People with symptoms of dementia should contact their doctor, who will ask questions such as: B. when the symptoms started, whether they got worse and how much, if at all, they interfere with daily activities. A doctor might choose to refer a patient for a neuropsychological evaluation, which could shed more light on the situation or simply provide a record of basic cognitive functioning, experts say Wealth.

“Everyone slips up once in a while,” says Schumann, citing the example of a single case of misplaced keys.

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But symptoms like trouble keeping a checkbook and remembering how to dress and groom are often signs of dementia, he warns. The good news is that if you don’t have mood swings or trouble sleeping, you’re unlikely to have dementia.

While the thought of a dementia diagnosis can be frightening, many urge early diagnosis, says Reuben. There are several reasons for this. It enables one to put one’s affairs in order. And there’s a glimmer of hope, too, as “there may be drugs on the horizon” that can help people with early-stage dementia.

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