Is It Normal Memory Loss or Dementia?

Recently, The National Institute on Aging estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans might currently have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia today. They also projected that there could be as many as 16 million cases by 2050.

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive degenerative disorder that slowly damages and ultimately destroys brain cells. Over time, this leads to loss of memory and the ability to think and carry out normal daily tasks. Therefore, it is highly important for families to know the signs and symptoms of dementia as well as to understand what is considered normal behavior for their older loved ones.

Recognizing the “Warning Signs”

Marilyn Kerr, R.N., Director of Nursing at Saunders House in Wynnewood, PA, says, “Thanks to advances in modern medicine, more people are living longer lives these days. While that is something we can all celebrate, it also increases the chances that you will know someone with Alzheimer’s disease in your family.” 

“Although there is currently no cure, the sooner you can identify Alzheimer’s in a loved one, the better their chances of responding favorably to treatment. Additionally, experts tell us that when the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are identified early, it increases the chances for your loved one to participate in making important decisions about the future – including healthcare, legal and financial decisions”

“If you believe a loved one has symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor immediately. Sometimes, individuals exhibit similar signs and behaviors that are caused by treatable conditions.”

How the 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s Differ from Normal Behavior

The Alzheimer’s Association article, “Know the 10 Signs,” identifies behaviors that are considered valid warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It also distinguishes these behaviors from what is considered normal, age-related change. In other words, these symptoms are serious and are different from those “senior moments” that all of us experience from time to time.”

The 10 warning signs are:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life – Forgetting current information and important events and relying on memory aides for things they used to handle routinely.

    Normal behavior: Forgetting a name or appointment, but remembering it later.
  • Challenges in planning or problem solving – Difficulty withcreating and following a planor a recipe; trouble working with numbers; and taking longer than normal to do familiar things.

    Normal behavior: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
  • Difficulty completing familiar activities – Challenges with driving to a familiar location; difficulty remembering the rules of a favorite game; and difficulty managing a budget.

    Normal behavior: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or recording a TV show.
  • Confusion with time or place – Losing track of time, dates and seasons of the year; difficulty understanding something if it is not happening in the present; and forgetting where you are or how you got there.

    Normal behavior: Getting confused about the day of the week, but eventually figuring it out.
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships – Difficulty reading or judging distance; determining color; and not recognizing one’s own reflection in a mirror.

    Normal behavior: Vision changes related to cataracts or the aging eye.                    
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing – Difficulty in following or joining a conversation;struggling with “word finding;”calling things or people by the wrong name.

    Normal behavior: Occasionally having trouble finding the right word.
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – Putting things in unusual places; the inability to retrace steps to find items again; andaccusing others of stealing items.

    Normal behavior: Misplacing things from time to time, like a pair of glasses.
  • Failing judgment – Challenges with decision-making;difficulty dealing with basic money issues.

    Normal behavior: Making a bad decision once in awhile.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities – Removing oneself from hobbies, work projects, sports, etc.; avoiding once-enjoyed social activities.

    Normal behavior: Sometimes feeling in need of a break from work, family and social obligations.
  • Changes in mood and personality – Depression, fear and anxiety;confusion or suspiciousness;getting easily upset.

    Normal behavior: Developing specific routines and becoming irritable when disrupted.

Ms. Kerr adds, “Alzheimer’s disease presents challenges for everyone in the family, not just the loved one with the disease. In fact, caregivers are sometimes referred to as ‘the second victim.’ However, if you can identify the warning signs early, prepare yourself for what to expect, identify helpful resources in your community and plan ahead for your loved one’s changing condition and needs, you can make the future a more manageable one for your loved one and for you.”

Discover Memory Care with Dignity, Respect and Support

As a leading, residential skilled nursing memory care program, the professionals at Saunders House, understand that loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments have unique needs that demand special care, attention and compassion. Therefore, we created Care Traditions, a best-practice program that provides specialized care and support to our memory care residents.

Care Traditions is designed to enhance the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The program offers residents the freedom and dignity they deserve with the support they need.

Within the secure and comforting surroundings of the Care Traditions neighborhood, therapeutic recreation specialists provide structured, meaningful activities that are best suited to the individual needs and desires of each of our residents. Care Traditions offers:

  • Engaging, Life-Enriching Programs – Care Traditions takes a holistic approach to memory care, incorporating programming for the mind, body and spirit. We also encourage our residents to engage with others and enjoy enriching activities. Everything we do in Care Traditions promotes positive interactions among residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends.

    We offer our residents freedom and dignity, along with plenty of opportunities for socialization based upon individual abilities and desires. To foster a sense of belonging, residents living within Care Traditions are invited to join in our community-wide activities whenever possible. 
  • A Safe Environment and Peace of Mind – Our specialized program is delivered in a dedicated area, providing our residents with an environment that is safe and secure. For added peace of mind, we offer a special bracelet for at-risk residents. The bracelet activates our alarm system should they try to leave a secure area.

  • Warm, Welcoming Surroundings – Residents in Care Traditions enjoy all the comforts of home, including:
    • Fully furnished, private and semi-private rooms – all with individual bathrooms
    • Three delicious, well-balanced meals served in a separate dining room
    • Variety of therapeutic programs 
  • Specially Trained Team Members – Our Care Traditions staff receives continuing education in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Care Traditions features a dedicated team of caregivers, providing residents with the comfort of a familiar environment and the warmth of friendly faces.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us. Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Discover our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Hospital, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services including short-term rehabilitation therapytraditional nursing care, restorative carememory carerespite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our short-term rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at (610) 658-5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: This information should not be construed as Saunders House or Main Line Senior Care Alliance offering legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.

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