How Do You Tell the Difference Between Dementia and Forgetfulness?

“Where did I put my keys?”

That question can lead to an extensive quest around the living room, behind couch cushions and throughout your home. It seems like you’re always misplacing your keys.

But is that reason to worry? After all, how do you tell the difference between dementia and forgetfulness?

We provide this useful guide as well as signs that your loved one may need and benefit from memory care.

The Difference Between Dementia and Forgetfulness

It’s perfectly normal to forget things.

It happens all the time.

But when this forgetfulness progresses, there can be problems and possible signs of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.

We know it can be confusing, so we wanted to outline some of the ways you can tell the difference between the normal forgetfulness that everyone experiences and something more serious.

Have you ever forgotten the grocery list or couldn’t find something? Perhaps you missed a deadline.

Don’t panic. Millions of people have been in your shoes. These are signs of normal forgetfulness.

However, if you or someone you love forgets basic things such as your address or where you went to high school, you should be alert. Often, those with dementia may wander or get lost in familiar surroundings.

It’s also important to remember that dementias such as Alzheimer’s often have physical and emotional symptoms as well. Those with the diseases may be excessively moody, paranoid, or lose control over bodily functions.

What Is Dementia?

First, it’s important to understand that dementia is not a disease itself. Rather, it’s a general term that covers several conditions that affect the brain and how you think. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, accounting for more than half of cases.

So when you hear the term dementia, think of it as an overall “umbrella” term covering several situations.

Some people may say that someone is “senile” or has “senile dementia.” These are not correct.

Serious mental decline is not a normal part of aging.

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. Different types of dementia are named for the areas of the brain that they affect.

What Are the Stages of Dementia?

As we mentioned earlier, dementia actually covers an entire scope of conditions, and the stages may vary slightly between them. Therefore, we’ll outline the stages of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

Early Stages of Alzheimer’s

Signs at this stage include:

  • Difficulty coming up with the right word
  • Problems remembering names of new people
  • Challenges performing tasks in social settings
  • Forgetting something you just read
  • Difficulty planning or organizing

As the disease progresses, you may notice:

  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty remembering personal history
  • Forgetting major events
  • Inability to remember basic information like address or telephone number
  • Confusion about date and times
  • Problems with bladder control
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Wandering or becoming lost

During this time, there may also be certain changes in behavior. They may become paranoid or even have delusions. Many also show repetitive behavior and wring their hands or shred tissue.

They may also:

  • Have difficulty sitting
  • Have problems swallowing
  • Become unaware of surroundings
  • Lose awareness
  • Experience problems with walking
  • Have progressive difficulty communicating

At this later stage, those with Alzheimer’s may be more prone to infections as well.

In the final stages of Alzheimer’s, your loved one may require the 24/7 assistance we provide in our Memory Care Center, where we can help them with personal care.

What is Normal Age-related Memory Loss?

It’s very common to forget things as you age. In fact, almost half of those over 65 experience memory loss. It should not be confused with the serious decline seen in dementias such as Alzheimer’s.

For example, in age-related memory loss, it’s perfectly understandable to forget details of a discussion that took place over a year ago. It’s even expected to forget things and events occasionally.

Don’t panic if you sometimes have difficulty finding the right word, especially if friends or relatives aren’t worried about your memory.

Here’s a classic example that will help you determine the difference between what is normal age-related memory loss and dementia:

It’s normal to not remember the name of an acquaintance or someone you’re not very close to. However, if you’re not recognizing family members or close friends, then you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Do Dementia Patients Know They Have Dementia?

This is a great question. It’s difficult to answer because diseases such as Alzheimer’s will gradually affect memory and brain function, most dementia patients are not aware of the extent of their condition.

They may be aware of memory loss in the disease’s early stages, but as it progresses they become more dependent upon other people to let them know if there is a problem.

Our Memory Care Units Serve Those with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias

Dementias are particularly devastating. They rob families of so much. That’s why we created our Memory Care Unit to help not just our residents, but their families as well. Finding memory care for your loved one is now easier than ever.

Our staff has received specialized training in helping those with dementias, and we provide a safe, yet stimulating environment specifically designed for them.

We provide the around the clock care so you can return to your role as son, daughter or spouse. Let us enable you to spend quality time with the one you love.

We treat our residents like members of our own family because in so many ways they are. From our delicious home-cooked meals to our friendly staff, we invite you to take a tour to see what makes Coastal Pointe a peaceful, relaxing environment.