How to tell the difference between dementia and normal aging

A third of people who notice symptoms of dementia in themselves or a loved one keep quiet about it for a month or longer, according to a new survey from the UK

Only 15% of the 1,100 patients and caregivers surveyed brought their observations immediately, and 11% had not, according to the survey, released on Monday by the London-based. Alzheimer’s Society. Participants included diagnosed dementia patients and their caregivers, as well as potential dementia patients and their caregivers.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed waited more than six months before seeking medical help, the survey found. The most common reason for keeping quiet is not concern about the condition, which is often progressive. Instead, those affected are unsure which symptoms are associated with normal aging and which are associated with dementia.

Confusion, stigma, and anxiety about the condition—which affects a third of individuals in their lifetime—delays diagnosis and treatment, Kate Lee, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, said in a news release about the study.

“We can’t continue to avoid the ‘d’ word,” he said. “We have to deal with dementia.”

How to tell the difference between aging and dementia

“Dementia is definitely not normal aging,” dr. John Schumann—executive medical director of Oak Street Health, a chain of primary care clinics serving older adults—said luck.

Dr. David Reuben, director of the Multicampus Program in Geriatrics Medicine and Contrology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, agrees. He likens aging, a normal biological phenomenon, to a “computer processor in your brain that doesn’t work very well.” An example: If a word or phrase is “on the tip of your tongue,” and you find yourself saying, “give me a few minutes and it will come back.” Such acquisition deficits are “very common in old age,” he said.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a wide range of diseases involving a progressive or persistent loss of intellectual function, from mild to severe, with Alzhermier’s being the most common. While some cognitive “slowing” can occur as part of the normal aging process, the symptoms of dementia are distinct and indicative of the disease, experts say.

According to the National Institute on Aging, signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing dementia—and not just normal aging—include:

  • Ask the same question over and over again
  • Have trouble following directions such as recipes
  • Lost in the place you know so well
  • Become more confused about time, place, and people
  • Not taking care of yourself, including eating poorly, forgetting to bathe or shower, or acting in an unsafe manner

Making a bad decision, missing a monthly payment, or missing something from time to time is normal, according to the agency. But making bad decisions most of the time, having trouble taking care of your monthly bills, and always having the wrong things (and not being able to find them) is not.

What to do if you are worried about dementia

Those with symptoms of dementia should contact their doctor, asking questions such as when the symptoms started, if they are getting worse, and to what extent, if any, they interfere with daily activities. . A doctor may choose to refer a patient for a neuropsychological examination, which can shed more light on the situation or simply provide a record of baseline cognitive functioning, experts say. . Good luck.

“Everyone has a slip at one time,” Schumann said, citing the example of a single incident of misplaced keys.

But symptoms like trouble balancing a checkbook and remembering how to dress and groom oneself are often signs of dementia, he warns. The good news: If mood swings or sleep disturbances aren’t present, dementia is unlikely.

While the thought of a dementia diagnosis can be scary, many push for an early diagnosis, Reuben said. That is for several reasons. It allows one to organize their activities. And it also offers a glimmer of hope, as there “may be drugs on the horizon” to help those with early-stage dementia.

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