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Ask the Expert: Alzheimer’s or normal age-related changes?

Answers provided by Katrice Sisson, Alzheimer’s Association

Question: What are some signs of Alzheimer’s/dementia compared to normal age-related changes?

Memory loss that disrupts daily life

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

Memory loss or confusion can be part of the natural aging process. But Alzheimer’s/dementia results in a disruption of daily life. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, see a doctor to determine the cause. Stock photo

What challenges might people have in planning or solving problems?

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

Problems with words in speaking or writing

People with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

What’s a typical age-related change?

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person with Alzheimer’s may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

Confusion with time or place

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related change?

Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

What to do if you have concerns?

If you or a loved one is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause. Even if symptoms suggest dementia, early diagnosis allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and provides time to plan for the future. For more information and resources, call the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free at 800-272-3900 or locally at 320-257-0699. You can also visit Families find comfort in our support groups, care consultations (in-person meetings), and vast education and resources.

How can you help?

** Please join the Alzheimer’s Association for the St. Cloud Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Lake George on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Funds will be raised for care, support, and ground-breaking research. Register today at

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