Useful Health Tips

Dementia v/s Normal Aging

Dementia v/s Normal Aging
May 14
11:59 2019

What you need to be aware of while caring for your elderly loved one?

As humans get older it is common for their memory to get a bit fuzzier. Older people may find that they have some trouble recalling memories or have more difficulty multitasking than before. Over 40% of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss; a condition that is known as “age-associated memory impairment.”

These changes are most of the time completely normal and a natural part of the aging process. In general, cognitive decline in older people is a result of a decrease in grey matter volume of the brain. However, many people who experience these symptoms can worry that they are a sign of dementia.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a blanket term for a wide variety of brain diseases that result in a substantial loss of cognitive performance and executive functioning. Patients with dementia normally present with memory problems, decreased motivation, inability to reason, disinhibition, and problems with language. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which makes up over half recorded cases of dementia.

Dementia is diagnosed when any of the above issues have progressed to such a point that it seriously impedes daily functioning. This includes things like having problems doing daily household tasks, problems remembering family members and friends, or difficulties at work or in the community.

Differences Between Dementia and Normal Aging

While it is true that aging is accompanied by general cognitive decline and that age is a factor for developing dementia, dementia for many reasons should not be considered a normal part of the aging process. Chief among those reasons is the disparity in the severity of the cognitive decline between normal aging and dementia.

Generally, cognitive decline from the aging process is not enough to severely impede a person’s daily functioning. Here are a couple of differences in symptoms between normal aging and dementia (note: this chart is not meant as a diagnostic tool. If you think a loved one has dementia consult your GP immediately. Only a qualified professional can diagnose dementia.)


AbilityChanges due to normal agingChanges due to dementia
Short term memoryTrouble remembering an event or conversation from a few years ago



Misplacing objects sometimes

Difficulty remembering an event or conversation that happened recently, within the past day or two.


Placing objects in unusual places (e.g. keys in fridge or bathroom cabinet)

Planning and problem-solving skillsSlower reaction and thinking times



Less able to juggle multiple tasks


Occasionally making a poor decision with finances, social mores, etc.

Frequent confusion and inability to think things through


Great difficulty concentration on simple tasks


Frequent poor decision making with money and risk assessment

LanguageForgetting a word or phrase every now and then



Losing a conversation if distracted

Has frequent problem recalling phrases and names for objects


Immense problems following a conversation

Mood/BehaviorModerate anxiety



Occasional weariness from work


Irritability when a routine is interrupted

Unusual amount of fright, anxiety, or depression


Withdrawing from work and other social obligations


Frequently irritable and easily upset, even with friends/family and in comfortable, familiar spaces.

Vision/PerceptionModerate loss in visual ability due to cataracts or other eye issues



Lowered hearing sensitivity

Cannot interpret visual information such as distances, patterns, and recognizing objects by sights


Unable to process audio signals such as speech.


How to Help Your Loved One With Age-Related Memory Difficulties

Even though memory difficulties are a normal part of the aging process they can still be frustrating for your loved ones. Following these tips can help your loved one cope with memory problems from aging:

  • Keep a routine. Part of cognitive decline from aging is a decreased ability to process new and unfamiliar stimuli. Keeping a regular routine decreases this risk.
  • Organize items in the household. Make sure to keep things in the house in the same places and make sure to let them know if you change the placement of anything.
  • Keep their senses engaged. Keeping an active brain is one way to guard against cognitive decline due to aging. Things like reading are a good way to keep the mind active.
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. The brain requires sleep to repair and solidify neural connections. Having a regular sleep schedule keeps people refreshed and better able to direct their attention.

What Should You Do If You Think a Loved One Has Dementia?

It is important to be aware of the possibility of dementia but it is also important to realize that some general cognitive decline does not necessarily mean dementia. If you are worried that your loved one is developing dementia, call and set up an appointment with a neuropsychiatrist as soon as possible. If caught in the early stages, the negative symptoms of dementia can be mitigated.


Author Bio: Kat Helgeson comes from a ten-year career in social media marketing and content creation. She takes pride in her ability to communicate the culture and values of an organization via the written word. Kat is also the author of numerous books for young adults. Her titles have received the Junior Library Guild Award, the Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year Distinction, and been featured on the Illinois Reads selection list. Her work has been translated into Dutch and German. She has written several informative and educational pieces for Colorado Assisted Living, one of the leading communities of assisted living facilities in Colorado.

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