A FOREWORD on the tip of the tongue or a forgotten birthday – everyone has occasional memory gaps.
But as you get older, you can’t help but wonder if these blisters are normal or a sign of dementia.
Dementia is a terrible disease that most people fear, and a large proportion of older people will get it.
An estimated one million people in the UK have dementia, of which around half are undiagnosed.
Alzheimer’s Research UK says it is a common misconception that dementia is a condition of the elderly as more than 42,000 people under the age of 65 have dementia in the UK.
There are many types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer, which accounts for about 75% of cases.
But on the surface, it can be difficult to decipher between brain aging and dementia, especially when the disease is in its early stages.
Katie Puckering, Information Services Team Leader of Alzheimer’s Research UK, says the key difference is that in people with dementia, their symptoms affect their daily functioning.
Just some of the ways that dementia can impact on one’s daily life, even years before being diagnosed, include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty performing familiar everyday tasks, such as being confused about the correct changes when shopping
- Try to follow the conversation or find the right word
- Confused about time and place
- Mood change
Dementia is not just amnesia. It can affect the way someone behaves or the way they speak.
So how can you determine if your memory is normal, or a warning sign to see someone?
Take a test
Using the example of a lost car key, Katie explains the difference between someone with normal brain aging and someone with dementia.
She told The Sun: “It is quite common for us as humans to leave our car keys in an unusual place and it takes us longer to find them.
“As you get older, it takes you longer to recall, or you really have to think; What did I do? Where have I been? What distracted me? Did I have to let the dog out? And then you find the key in the back door.
“The process of retrieving that information is only slightly slower in people as they get older.
“In dementia, someone may not be able to recall that information and what they did when they entered the house.
“Whatever it is, they can put it somewhere it really doesn’t belong. For example, instead of putting the milk back in the fridge, they put the kettle in the fridge.”
NS American National Institute on Aging give some examples of amnesia normal in old age and dementia.
Read each question carefully and think about which category you might fall into. It can be helpful to do it with someone you live with:
These are just a few examples – dementia can manifest itself in a variety of ways.
Sometimes the affected person will not be aware of their cognitive decline, and their loved ones will spot the signs.
“That’s a key feature of some types of dementia – when you start making mistakes more often but don’t realize it’s happening,” says Katie.
“It gets pretty difficult for people who live independently and don’t know they’re making mistakes around the house.”
How is dementia different from aging?
The NHS says dementia “is not a natural part of the aging process”.
Katie explains: “As we age, our brains get a little smaller, and this is normal. We have slow thinking and memory processes.
“Over time, brain cells are damaged by a build-up of toxic proteins called amyloid and tau.
“These things start to disrupt the way brain cells communicate with each other, and that’s what leads to the symptoms we associate with Alzheimer’s disease — repetition, memory loss, sometimes disorientation. direction and communication problems.
“The communication breaks between brain cells cause them to eventually die and the volume of the brain – a mass of cells – begins to shrink.”
When to see a doctor?
It can be scary to think that your everyday mistakes could be the early stages of dementia.
Signs that it’s time to talk to a doctor include:
- Ask the same questions over and over
- Lost in places one knows well
- Having trouble following recipes or instructions
- Becoming more confused about time, people and place
- Not taking care of yourself — behaving poorly, not bathing, or behaving unsafely
Katie says the first thing to do is contact your doctor if you suspect something is wrong.
“They will run several different tests that can rule out other causes,” she said.
“With these mild symptoms, there are many different symptoms that can cause those symptoms, like bisexual thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies and underlying infections, drug interactions, and menopause.
“So by going to the GP, they can run some blood tests and a quick memory test to determine what the symptoms are. And then if they feel fit, they will likely refer them to a memory hospital for further testing.”
There are many organizations that support people, and their families, affected by this memory-robbing illness.
Katie said to contact their information service on 0333 150 3456, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to Dementia Research Infoline, Alzheimer Research UK, 3 Riverside, Granta Park, Cambridge, CB21 6AD.
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/health/16921970/memory-loss-ageing-or-dementia-take-test/ Is your memory loss due to aging or dementia? Take this quiz to help find out