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Is It Old Age or Alzheimer's?

People tend to forget things as they get older. But at what point does it go beyond the regular symptoms of old age and become symptoms of Alzheimer's disease? Old age can result in memory loss, whereas Alzheimer's disease can lead to loss of cognition. This includes memory, in addition to things like understanding, communication, and reasoning.

Common Alzheimer's symptoms

Memory Loss

Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of Alzheimer's disease. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.

  • What's Normal Aging? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments.

Trouble Performing Familiar Tasks

People with Alzheimer's disease often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps needed to prepare a meal, place a telephone call, or play a game.

  • What's Normal Aging? Occasionally forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.

Problems with Language

People with Alzheimer's disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may not be able to find the toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth."

  • What's Normal Aging? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Disorientation to Time and Place

People with Alzheimer's disease can become lost in their own neighborhoods, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.

  • What's Normal Aging? Forgetting the day of the week or where you were going.

Poor or Decreased Judgment

Those with Alzheimer's disease may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment about money, like giving away large sums to telemarketers.

  • What's Normal Aging? Making a questionable decision from time to time.

Problems with Abstract Thinking

Someone with Alzheimer's disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are and how they should be used.

  • What's Normal Aging? Finding it challenging to balance a checkbook.

Misplacing Things

A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places: an iron might go in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

  • What's Normal Aging? Misplacing keys or a wallet temporarily.

Changes in Mood or Behavior

Someone with Alzheimer's disease may show rapid mood swings— from calm to tears to anger—for no apparent reason.

  • What's Normal Aging? Occasionally feeling sad or moody.

Changes in Personality

The personalities of people with Alzheimer's disease can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful, or dependent on a family member.

  • What's Normal Aging? People's personalities do change somewhat with age.

Loss of Initiative

A person with Alzheimer's disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual, or not wanting to do usual activities.

  • What's Normal Aging? Sometimes feeling weary of work or social obligations.

Memory Loss

Trouble Performing Familiar Tasks

Problems with Language

Disorientation to Time and Place

Poor or Decreased Judgment

Problems with Abstract Thinking

Misplacing Things

Changes in Mood or Behavior

Changes in Personality

Loss of Initiative

AD8 Dementia Screener

The AD8 Dementia Screening Interview is a commonly used diagnostic tool to help assess your loved one's symptoms when it is suspected that he or she might have Alzheimer's disease.

Find out if your loved one is showing signs or symptoms of Alzheimerís disease.

Find out if your loved one is showing signs or symptoms of Alzheimerís disease.

Prepare for a trip to the doctor with your loved one using this list of questions about Alzheimerís.

Prepare for a trip to the doctor with your loved one using this list of questions.

10/15 T-EXP-1318386

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