As we age, our bodies change. We lose some of our physical abilities, and our responses to certain things become slower. Loss of hearing or eyesight, decreased strength and stamina, and even some forgetfulness are all normal processes of aging. But when are these changes a sign of something more serious? What is the difference between simple forgetfulness and dementia?
In normal aging, our bodies and brains slow down, but our intelligence level stays the same. Despite a decrease in strength or stamina, a person who is experiencing normal aging is still able to function and perform most or all daily tasks. If a person is experiencing odd changes that are starting to affect their daily life, it is possible that they are showing the first signs of dementia.
Dementia is a term that is used to describe several different brain disorders, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.” In order to be considered dementia, a person must be experiencing an impairment in their social functioning and in their ability to live independently.
A person who is aging normally can still participate in daily life. They may be slower to respond or they may forget small details, but they are still aware of what is happening around them, and they can still participate in and interpret life around them. A person with dementia’s mental decline is severe enough to affect many actions of their daily life, such as memory, communication and language, the ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning, judgment, and their perception of shapes and symbols.
With dementia, the symptoms are progressive. The first signs may start out small, but a person with dementia’s mental decline gets noticeably worse as time goes on. Memory loss or the loss of small skills may be the first signs that someone is suffering from dementia. Perhaps they start to get lost often, or they begin to ask the same questions several times over. A person with dementia may start to act odd or inappropriately. They may begin to exhibit personality changes or changes in their diet and eating habits. They may have sudden changes in hygiene. They may begin to have difficulty with language and comprehension.
If someone you love suddenly seems to be losing pieces of who they are, this might be a sign that they need to see a medical professional. If your loved one is still able to participate in daily life but has lost a few physical skills or has a small bit of trouble recalling one memory, they are probably aging perfectly normally.