Is It Age-Related Forgetfulness or Alzheimer’s?

Jun 19, 2020

“Oh, I’m having a senior moment!” is something many of us (even us younger folk) have exclaimed from time to time. It does make one feel silly when you’ve walked into a room and forgotten why you’re there, or if you tear the house apart looking for your glasses only to find them on top of your head. While we often laugh these moments off, as we get older we start to worry: is it simple forgetfulness, or is it something else?

“One of the biggest fears of many seniors is developing a cognitive issue like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia,” says Doris Lea, Executive Director of Hidden Springs of McKinney. “Since memory loss and memory issues are the hallmarks of these types of conditions, it’s natural to wonder if your memory lapses are something more than just senior moments. When is it simple forgetfulness, and when should you or a loved one be worried?”

Oftentimes, says Doris, episodes of forgetfulness are simply the cause of aging. “Our brains just have a lot of information in them, so it’s no wonder that we forget things from time to time,” she says. “It could also be due to medication side effects, sleep deprivation, stress, depression … many things can affect our memory, so you shouldn’t immediately leap to the conclusion of Alzheimer’s if you’re having episodes of forgetfulness.”

In honor of National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we’ve put together some of the “watch for” signs that can signify when a memory issue is concerning … and when it’s not. Doris says that it’s important for seniors and their loved ones to understand the difference so that action can be taken as soon as a problem starts to manifest.

“Most of us will try and sweep a memory problem under the rug, so to speak, because for so long Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia have been thought of as life-ending conditions,” Doris says. “However, there are many medications that can help in the early stages of the disease, which is why early detection can make a difference.”

So, what is the difference between age-related forgetfulness and memory loss due to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of cognitive decline? Here are three subtle signs that seniors and their loved ones should watch for.

Remembering dates, times and people.

You’re talking with a friend or family member and they bring up a memory they have of the two of you – and you have no idea what they’re talking about or any sort of recollection of the event. Sound familiar? As we get older, it’s common to have problems remembering things that have happened years ago. We may even forget peoples’ names (or end up cycling through a bunch of incorrect names before landing on the right one – even though we know in our heads exactly who we’re talking to). Don’t fret – this is a common occurrence. It just means that there’s a lot going on in your head.

When to be concerned: When you or a loved one can’t remember important events (such as the birth of a child or a wedding day), forget the names of close loved ones, or can’t remember a conversation that they just had.

Attention and concentration.

Our minds wander – that’s a normal thing since we’re bombarded every minute with messages and other forms of content. It’s also easy to get lost in our own thoughts and maybe not pay attention to what someone is saying to us. Usually, though, this is just a sign of our minds wandering.

When to be concerned: When you or a loved one have difficulty following a conversation or concentrating on a task. You or your loved one may forget how to do a task you’ve always done (like following a favorite recipe) or may end up repeating phrases over and over again in conversation.

Difficulty retrieving words.

We all have problems remembering words from time to time (like a song title or actor’s name that’s on the tip of your tongue). With normal age-related forgetfulness, you should be able to remember what you want to say after some prompting or after you’ve left the subject alone for some time to give your subconscious an opportunity to work.

When to be concerned: If you or a loved one begin substituting similar-sounding words for common names (like “hand clock” in place of “watch,” for example), or if prompting doesn’t help you remember what it is you want or need to say.

Still, wondering what this looks like? Here are a few differences between normal forgetfulness and dementia-related issues:

  • Normal forgetfulness: You’ve forgotten a past event or conversation, but you’re able to recall it easily once you get some context and prompting from others.
  • Alzheimer’s: You’ve forgotten a conversation or even what just happened and prompting from others doesn’t help jog your memory.
  • Normal forgetfulness: Having difficulty repeating a new task you just learned, like programming the TV remote or using the controls on a new car (so many buttons and touch screens).
  • Alzheimer’s: Forgetting how to do something that you’ve done for many, many years, like baking a cake or building a birdhouse.
  • Normal forgetfulness: Forgetting what you were going to say in a conversation because you went off on a tangent or were rambling.
  • Alzheimer’s: Being unable to follow the course of a conversation or completely forgetting what you were saying.

“Fortunately, we live in an age where medicine is making great strides in helping those with cognitive diseases, so if you feel like you or your loved one’s memory issues are concerning, there’s no harm in speaking to your doctor,” says Doris. “Best case scenario, you’ll feel silly for being concerned about something that’s completely normal. Worst case scenario, you’ll have caught the development of a memory issue right at the beginning – giving you and your loved ones the best possible chance to help treat and slow the progression of the disease and set you up for the best quality of life possible now and in the future.”

For more information about age-related forgetfulness versus dementia, or to learn more about our new community in North Dallas, please contact us at 972.483.0234.

Luxury Living in North Dallas

At Hidden Springs of McKinney, we understand how important location is to North Dallas seniors who are looking for an engaging, enriching retirement lifestyle. Located in McKinney, Texas, we are close to medical centers, arts and entertainment, outdoor opportunities and everything else you love about this area. Seniors who choose to make us their home can enjoy a range of trips, opportunities and activities while living their very best life thanks to our innovative focus on wellness.

Active Retirement Living for a Healthy Tomorrow

The secret to a life well-lived awaits you at Hidden Springs of McKinney. Envisioned and developed by Madison Marquette, a company with a 25-year track record of investing in vibrant communities and a stellar reputation for developing luxury residences, you’ll discover all the possibilities your retirement brings … as well as the confidence of knowing your future is secure.

Our beautifully appointed, active retirement living community is created for those who expect more out of life. Luxury living, gracious services, resort-quality amenities, engaging programs and stunning apartments in 15 floor plans are just a few of the benefits awaiting you. And with assisted living and memory care services offered on campus, you can retire with complete peace of mind, knowing that if needs change, the care you deserve is right at home.

To learn more about Hidden Springs of McKinney and discover The Secret to a Life Well Lived, call or visit us today. We’d be happy to schedule a tour and show you just how much our location can make your retirement experience exceptional.

Call us today at 972.483.0234.