Diagnosing Alzheimer’s: Is it Memory Loss or Just Normal Aging?

Has any of the following ever happened to you?

  • You locked your keys in your car
  • You blanked on the name of a familiar acquaintance
  • You entered a room and forgot why you went there

These small memory lapses happen to everyone, but as we age, they might happen more frequently. We may even become concerned they are a sign of impending Alzheimer’s disease.

Whether it’s you or an aging loved one concerned about memory loss, don’t panic.

Although memory loss doesn’t have to be a symptom of normal aging, it often is. Depending on how active you are and how well you exercise your brain (and body), you may experience some memory loss.

But unless you, or your senior loved one, experience the following on a regular basis, it is probably not Alzheimer’s disease.

Signs of Memory Loss Related to Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s a difference between forgetting where you put your keys and forgetting how to get dressed. If you find yourself unable to perform daily activities you’ve done countless times before, it’s time to speak to a doctor about your symptoms.

Here are other common signs of Alzheimer’s-related memory loss:

  • Frequently feeling disoriented, even in familiar places
  • Repeating the same words or telling the same stories during the same conversation
  • Unable to track the flow of a conversation
  • Forgetting, misusing, or garbling words (Note: this may also be a symptom of a stroke)
  • Forgetting how to behave in social situations
  • Frequently making poor decisions or having lapses in judgment

Do You Remember That You Forgot?

Another key sign of Alzheimer’s is being unable to remember the instances when you’ve forgotten things. So if you can re-tell that funny story of locking your keys in the house, while you went to put the garbage out in your bathrobe and slippers, it’s probably not a sign of Alzheimer’s, but just everyday forgetfulness.

On the other hand, if a loved one denies having any memory problems, but you’ve witnessed recurring issues firsthand, it’s time to see a doctor. Their physician is the best person to determine if your senior loved one might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment

There’s another stage between normal memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, diagnosed as Mild Cognitive Impairment. In this stage, you or your older family member may experience normal memory loss, but to a much greater extent.

Individuals exhibiting symptoms of MCI are still able to function on a daily basis, but frequently forget things ranging from the names of loved ones to important appointments.

It’s important to see a doctor if you or a loved one exhibits symptoms of MCI. It’s also important to know you can stave off – or even reverse – the symptoms of some forms of MCI. Regular physical exercise, as well as staying socially and intellectually engaged with life can help.

While Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible, you may slow the decline of its symptoms by seeking medical help in the early stages and turning to memory care professionals for guidance and support.