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Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer’s?

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We’ve all had lapses of memory. We misplace our phones, forget what we walked into a room for, or forget what day of the week it is. These memory lapses don’t really stand out when you’re young, but they may start to concern you as you age. 

The good news is, even though memory issues can be frustrating, they usually aren’t a cause for concern. Memory loss is a normal part of aging, and it doesn’t always mean you should be worried about Alzheimer’s. 

But how do you know when memory issues are something you should be worried about? At The Villages, we know how frightening it can be to experience memory-related symptoms. So we’re here to help ease some of the stress you may undergo when dealing with memory issues.

Keep reading to learn more about age-related memory loss, what signs and symptoms you should pay attention to, and how to know when it’s the right time to seek help. 

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It progressively affects memory loss, cognitive function, and behavior. 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s usually appear when someone reaches their mid-60s, but early-onset Alzheimer’s can begin as early as 30 years old. 

If you suffer from Alzheimer’s, you should know that you’re not alone. Roughly 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Because it is such a common disease, there are many people, resources, and information for you to rely on. 

Alzheimer’s Is Not the Only Cause of Memory Loss

As you grow older, you’ll go through physiological changes that affect your memory and brain function. However, memory loss is a normal part of aging and doesn’t always mean a severe condition at play. 

There are many causes of age-related memory loss other than Alzheimer’s. These include: 

  • Depression: If you suffer from depression, you may find it hard to focus or remember certain things.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI): UTIs can cause similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s, such as confusion, tiredness, or loss of focus. 
  • Thyroid disease: If you have thyroid disease, some parts of your body may slow down. This can affect your cognitive function. 
  • Diabetes: If your blood sugar levels drop too low, you may experience diabetic symptoms such as confusion & clumsiness. 
  • Lyme disease: Lyme disease is caused by excess bacteria in the bloodstream. If left untreated, it can affect your nervous system & short-term memory.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: If you have a B12 deficiency, you may experience symptoms such as memory loss or confusion. 
  • Medications: Certain drugs like antihistamines, anti-nausea medicine, & bladder relaxants can cause similar symptoms to dementia. 
  • Vestibular Disorders: Vestibular disorders can cause problems with balance & cognitive function. 

Differences Between Normal Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease

Memory loss is an entirely normal part of aging and shouldn’t always be a reason to worry. The following list outlines some of the differences between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Making poor judgments once in a while vs. making decisions that affect your life often.
  • Sometimes forgetting a word while talking vs. struggling to have a conversation.
  • Misplacing things from time to time vs. Losing things often and immediately.
  • Forgetting to pay one bill vs. continuously failing to pay your monthly bills.
  • Temporarily forgetting what day it is vs. losing track of the day, month, or year.

Senior woman having difficulty remembering which key is correct to open her front door to her home

Symptoms of Alzeimers

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms will get worse over time. In the beginning, your symptoms may be mild. This often means that it may take a while before you notice that you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms. 

Signs of Alzheimer’s can include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges with problem-solving
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Getting lost or forgetting where you are
  • Losing or misplacing things 
  • Having problems following instructions 
  • Forgetting to eat or bathe
  • Problems communicating
  • Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
  • Repeating questions
  • Trouble with finances
  • Heightened emotions 

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented?

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, which means it’s hard to prevent the condition altogether. 

Luckily, a healthy lifestyle has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Some things you can do to help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s includes: 

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Exercise often 
  • Get regular health checks
  • Take prescribed medications 

Memory loss: When to seek help

Suppose you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms and signs listed above, and you notice that they are getting worse. In that case, it is probably time to talk with a doctor. 

A thorough check-up from a doctor can determine the cause of their memory issues and find the best course of action to keep them healthy and happy. Having a solid care plan can bring you peace, knowing that you or your loved one is being taken care of properly. 

If you have any questions about memory care or age-related memory loss, please reach out to us at The Villages. We are always here to help you with any concerns you may have and will do everything we can to help.

Sue Hall

Written by Sue Hall

Sue has been in healthcare for over 30 years as a nurse, consultant, and administrator. Through the years, she has always felt her calling was with seniors, and she feels at home at The Villages of Murfreesboro. Sue serves on the board of the Tennessee State Veterans’ Homes.

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