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Is it Alzheimer’s or Normal Aging? How to Tell the Difference

Only a doctor can diagnose Alzheimer's Disease, but it’s up to you to recognize warning signs in yourself or loved ones that warrant follow-up with a medical professional.

Only a doctor can diagnose Alzheimer's Disease, but it’s up to you to recognize warning signs in yourself or loved ones that warrant follow-up with a medical professional.

If you really do have Alzheimer’s, the sooner you see your doctor about your concerns, the sooner you can start on treatments that may help slow the disease's progression. June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, so there’s no better time learn about and watch for these five signs:

1. Memory loss that disrupts your daily routine

Inability to go about normal daily tasks due to memory loss is a key symptom of Alzheimer's. Normal forgetfulness incidental to age will not impair your ability to learn new information or cause you to ask the same questions repeatedly without realizing it, but Alzheimer’s can do both.

Memory loss due to Alzheimer's may also cause you to forget important dates or lead you to rely on family members to remember appointments or other important information.

2. Trouble with articulation

People with Alzheimer's are more likely to struggle with communication. They may "have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation or they may repeat themselves," according to the Alzheimer’s Association. They may also call an object by the wrong name.

With normal aging, people may struggle with knowing what they want to say but will likely exhibit less confusion than someone in the beginning stages of dementia.

3. Advancing difficulty with problem-solving

Occasional difficulty solving numerical problems or paying monthly bills can be expected as part of normal aging, but the key word is "occasional." Difficulty completing simple math equations, making familiar recipes or balancing customary budget items is not normal.

Experiencing multiple issues of this kind or experiencing difficulty with calculations you used to be able to do with ease suggest that something other than natural aging could be causing the trouble.

4. Losing skills you once had

Everyone will have to stop participating in certain activities with age, whether because of physical fitness (as in downhill skiing or bike riding) or because of vision problems (no longer able to see well enough to drive). But certain skills shouldn't deteriorate with time, according to WebMD, such as being able to work your oven or dishwasher, remembering how to get to a familiar location or using a simple phone.

5. Struggling with spatial relationships

Cataracts are a normal part of aging, but vision problems related to spatial relationships might be a cause for concern. The Alzheimer's Association characterizes this symptom as someone who has difficulty "judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room," not realizing it is, in fact, a reflection.

Recognize your risk factors

Since it’s Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month, it's a good time to reflect on your mental health as well as that of your loved ones. Along with these symptoms, consider the following risk factors the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center says may increase your chances of developing the disease:

  • Being over age 65 (your risk doubles every five years after age 65)
  • Having a family history of early-onset or late-onset Alzheimer's
  • Carrying one of several risk-factor genes researchers have linked with higher incidence of Alzheimer's

Speak with your primary care provider if you have questions or concerns about your mental or physical health. By being aware and proactive about your health and the health of those you love, you can guarantee the best care possible.

ComForCare of Palm Beach Gardens is the premier provider of private-duty, non-medical home health care specializing in Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia and allows people to age comfortably, safely and happily in place. Services include meal preparation, light housekeeping, grooming and hygiene help, transportation assistance, medication reminders and more. To learn more, visit comforcare.com/palmbeach.

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