What is the Difference between Normal Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s

Is my Memory Loss Normal, or a Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease?

As we age we all suffer from some degree of memory loss. Whether this is within normal boundaries or is a sign of something more serious – Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia – can be difficult to tell in the early stages. The forgetfulness and memory loss that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease is more significant and more serious than the usual memory loss that comes with age.

When you get older, if you begin to forget things, it can be worrying, and embarrassing. Family members and friends can react in different ways. Some may tease, some may get irritated, and others may be hurt and take it personally. Someone living with this memory loss can also respond in different ways – perhaps dismissing the incidents as normal, or trying to hide them, or being agitated and concerned that it means something more serious.

What is Normal Memory Loss?

Some degree of memory loss is a natural part of the cognitive decline that’s associated with aging. But it’s also natural to be concerned if you’ve noticed this forgetfulness happening more regularly.

But What is Normal?

For most people, signs of normal memory loss include things like forgetting where your keys are, forgetting the name of an acquaintance, missing an appointment or forgetting details of an earlier conversation. For those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, by comparison, these problems are on a larger scale: For example putting the keys in strange places – the fridge, the bathroom, the garden. Forgetting the names of family members, or forgetting who that family member is. Missing many appointments and withdrawing from regular engagements and activities. Forgetting entire conversations and being unable to recall the details even when reminded. Usually, with ‘normal’ memory loss, once reminded the person can recall the information and the gap in memory is short lived – the memory can be recalled by association with another thing or a prompt.

With dementia and Alzheimer’s disease this isn’t the case – prompts don’t bring the memory back, and being told the information again doesn’t mean it is retained. Often the same information is given repeatedly but still not retained. The associated memories aren’t linked together cognitively any more.

What is a Sign of Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

If you or a loved one are aging and beginning to forget things and are worried there are tests that your doctor can run to check whether it’s outside of what is seen as normal. Some ways to check at home are to try things like following a recipe, following directions or giving directions to somewhere familiar, and balancing a check. Someone who is simply aging might make one or two mistakes, but remembers the information with prompts. Someone with the early signs of Alzheimer’s would be consistently unable to carry out these tasks.

If you would be interested in a free memory screening, please contact us today.

About the Author:Dr. Michael Tuchman