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Changes in Cognitive Abilities: Normal Aging vs. Dementia

Our brains, and the way they work, evolve over the course of our lifetimes.  From the rapid growth that we experience in early childhood, to the poor decision making of our teenage years, to the “where did I put my keys?” moments that can creep up on us as early as middle age, our brains are always changing.


As we approach old age and start experiencing more of these noticeable shifts, it is reasonable to ask of ourselves and our loved ones: “Is this normal, or is there a bigger issue at play?”


Minor cognitive impairment is part of the “normal” aging process.  Occasionally misplacing things.  Not being able to think of a Jeopardy answer as quickly as you once could.  Walking into a room and not remembering why you did it.  These are examples of minor cognitive impairment.  They do not broadly affect your ability to function.  They do not have detrimental consequences.  They may be annoying, but they are to be expected.


True dementia, particularly that which is caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, can make itself known in many ways.  The symptoms may come on slowly or rapidly, and are sometimes preceded by a stressful life event.  Sometimes the symptoms evolve so slowly as to be unnoticeable by the people in your everyday life.  It is not uncommon for a friend or relative who has been out of the environment for some time to be the first to pick up on things.  This is not unlike seeing a child after a year or two and marveling at how much they have grown.  You don’t notice the changes day to day, but they are occurring.


There are symptoms that are of greater concern than others, and they warrant a discussion with your physician:

-Getting lost in familiar places

-Repetitive questions or unusual, odd, or inappropriate responses

-Changes to diet and hygiene

-Forgetfulness of recent events, and an inability to plan things or express organized thoughts

-Changes in communication and comprehension


An important step is to maintain open communication with your physician and those in your life who act as caregivers.  Knowing what to expect and planning to accommodate deficits and issues as they arise can aid in reducing stress during a difficult time.


We can help too.  Caregivers we refer can assist with activities of daily living that may be getting increasingly complex: things like bathing, cooking, laundry, light homemaking, or errands and food shopping.  Or perhaps having an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands in the home can offer the primary caregiver or family member some much needed relief or support.  Call La Nurse today.  We are here for you.  561-279-9885.