How to Distinguish the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Becoming SenilePosté le January 13, 2016 par Ressources Soins Aînés Québec en Alzheimer / Perte de mémoire, Bénévolat, Blog - English, Éducation, Éducation aux Aidants, Équipements Médicaux, Gestion des soins gériatriques, Hébergements, Personne Autonome, Soins pour la Démence
If you or your loved one have started to display signs of forgetfulness, you may automatically think, ‘it’s Alzheimer’s.’ However, this may not be the case. As we age, it’s apparent that we slow down physically, but we also slow down mentally.
So, how do you tell the difference? How can you tell if you or your loved one are developing Alzheimer’s, or simply showing signs of the aging process?
What Does it Mean to Be Senile?
There is a common misconception that being senile, means that someone has a form of dementia. This is simply not the case. Being senile means that you’re experiencing some of the effects that old age brings. As we age, we tend to deteriorate, both physically and mentally.
It’s important to catch Alzheimer’s as early as possible. Therefore, treatment can be implemented, potentially slowing down the progression. There are various reasons that symptoms are blamed on old-age, when in reality it’s early onset Alzheimer’s. Whether it’s denial or lack of education, it’s important to know the difference.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Becoming Senile?
It is not uncommon to go into a room and forget what you came for. As we age, being forgetful often scares individuals, making them believe that they’re developing Alzheimer’s. However, in many cases, forgetfulness is simply linked to age-related memory loss, stress, or even sleep deprivation.
On the other hand, some individuals brush off symptoms of Alzheimer’s, relating them to old-age. This delays a proper diagnosis. You need to acknowledge the core differences, that way you can either ease your mind, or prepare for treatment.
Memory and Recall
As you age, it is normal to experience memory loss. Memory recall can suffer, as you struggle to retrieve memories from your long-term storage. For example, you may be having a hard time remembering various names. Don’t panic.
In terms of normal age-related memory loss, this can be improved through context and cues. Alzheimer’s on the other hand will not improve when using the same context and cues. When Alzheimer’s becomes apparent, recent memories are a real concern.
You could ask someone affected to remember three words. If you said, peach, house, and dog, then ask the individual to recall them five minutes later, they typically won’t remember. Even if you give them a hint, such as, ‘one was a fruit,’ they still can’t tell you.
It’s not uncommon to forget an appointment, even if you are not developing Alzheimer’s. The difference will be the fact that you remember later. You acknowledge the fact that you forgot. With Alzheimer’s however, this may not happen. You can forget something, never retrieving that information back. Someone could remind you, but you may not be familiar with what they’re talking about.
Another example would be paying bills. As you age, it’s normal to forget to pay a bill or two, here and there. However, you should not forget HOW to pay your bills or manage your money. This may be a sign of Alzheimer’s.
Another key example is directions. Normal age-related memory loss may cause an individual to pause regarding directions. It’s even possible to draw a blank on what your street is called. However, you do not get lost in familiar places. Individuals with Alzheimer’s tend to get lost in places that are familiar to them. Also, they cannot follow directions effectively.
Attention and Focus
Since cognitive functioning is hindered as we age, attention and focus tend to suffer. The connections within our brain are not as strong as they used to be, meaning that communication may be hindered. Although normal age-related memory loss may impair one’s ability to concentrate, one’s ability to understand relationships between things do not generally change.
There is also a distinction between the ability to follow instructions. When someone is aging normally, both verbal and written instructions are not generally an issue. However, those with Alzheimer’s will be less and less responsive to instructions over time.
It’s no secret that our sight worsens as we age, however visual perception tends to be troubling for individuals with Alzheimer’s. They may have trouble judging distance for example, or they may misjudge how high a step is.
In terms of normal aging, sight is generally hindered by cataracts or the general aging process. When you reach a certain age, you should be conscious of your eye health. Regular check-ups are a great idea. That way, you can correct any visual issues related to the general aging process.
You’ve Noticed Memory-Loss Symptoms, What Do You Do?
If your loved one displays some of the following symptoms, further assessment may need to take place:
- Is your loved one experiencing memory loss?
- Does your loved one repeat stories? Perhaps the same story will be told two or three times in a single day.
- Have you had to take over their appointments, because they are continually forgetting?
- Has your loved one accused people of stealing or hiding their belongings because they can’t find them?
- Does your loved on struggle with dates or the time?
- Do they become confused when they’re outside their home, even if they’re somewhere once familiar?
- Has your loved one began to struggle with taking their medications because they don’t remember to?
- Are appliances becoming an issue? They may forget how to use the microwave or an alarm clock for instance.
- Are they having trouble recognizing familiar people?
Whether you’re developing Alzheimer’s or not, it’s never a bad idea to get a professional opinion. If you notice any symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. The sooner you address any potential problems, the better.
Make a list of symptoms, how often are they occurring? Focus on cognitive, memory, and behavioural concerns. Bring this list with you to the doctor, describing current events. Remember, each case is different and unique, so the best advice to get will be directly from your doctor.