By Anna Leskiv, MD
Some degree of memory loss is a fairly common part of aging, but should not prevent you from living a full and productive life. We all can misplace our keys or struggle to come up the name of an acquaintance we haven’t seen in a while.
There’s a difference, however, between the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and related disorders and normal age-related changes. Here are 10 ways to determine the difference:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. Signs include asking for the same information over and over, increasing reliance on notes and reminders, forgetting recently learned information.
Age-related: Occasionally forgetting names or appointments, but remembering later.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Difficulty following a plan, trouble working with numbers, keeping track of monthly bills, taking much longer to do things.
Age-related: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure. Trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
Age-related: Occasionally needing help to use the microwave or record a television show.
4. Confusion with time or place. For example, losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time or forget where they are or how they got there.
Age-related: Getting confused about the day of the week, but figuring it out later.
5. Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships. Difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
Age-related: Vision changes related to cataracts.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. Trouble following or joining conversation. Calling things by the wrong name (i.e. calling a watch a “hand-clock).
Age-related: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Putting things in unusual places or accusing others of stealing, with increasing frequency.
Age-related: Misplacing things from time to time, but finding them when retracing steps.
8. Decreased or poor judgment. May use poor judgment with money giving large amounts to telemarketers or may pay less attention to grooming and cleanliness.
Age-related: Making a bad decision once in a while.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Trouble keeping up with favorite sports teams or hobbies.
Age-related: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
10. Changes in mood and personality. Confused, suspicious, anxious, easily upset at home, at work, with friends.
Age-related: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.
Your physician can conduct tests to judge the degree of memory impairment and diagnose its cause. You will benefit from bringing a family member or friend with you to the appointment as your physician will have a number of questions.
Dr. Anna Leskiv is a board-certified neurologist with a private practice in Port Jefferson, NY.