- Ines Moreno and Jose A. Reese
Whether we like it or not, the passing of the years affects all of us.
Aging inevitably involves a series of changes that are considered normal, which fall within what we call successful aging.
However, it is not uncommon to confuse some of these signs of aging – especially forgetfulness – with early symptoms of the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects many functions, particularly memory and learning.
We have compiled 8 key features that allow us to clearly distinguish the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease from the changes associated with normal aging.
1. Amnesia vs. Amnesia. Temporarily forget something
Sometimes forgetting people’s names and remembering them later won’t be a cause for concern.
Immediate memory problems can have several causes, most often due to a lack of attention or concentration.
These deficiencies can be transient due to anxiety, stress, or the effects of certain medications.
For Alzheimer’s patients, memory loss or amnesia is the most common symptom.
It is not transient and tends to get worse over time.
It is usual to forget newly learned information, such as dates or events, and to ask for the same things over and over.
2. Confusion in time or place vs. Don’t remember the current date
It is considered normal, and not just old age, to easily forget the day we are in.
In stressful situations (or desires for a weekend getaway soon), we confuse the day we live in.
In Alzheimer’s patients, on the contrary, there is temporal and spatial confusion.
This means that they have forgotten the dates (many), even the current year or year of birth.
They also find it difficult to get to a known place and often don’t remember where they are or how they got there, putting them at risk of getting lost.
3. Aphasia vs. Forget the exact word
It has happened to all of us: sometimes we don’t remember a particular word and put it “on the tip of our tongue.”
Usually, later, or even the next day, the term suddenly comes to mind.
Aphasia appears in Alzheimer’s disease. Its primary symptoms are difficulties with communication and speech.
This affects the expression of words (AD patients do not find the correct word or repeat it often), and generates errors in word order and spelling.
4. Changes in Behavior vs. Bad mood
Who hasn’t had a bad day?
Daily stress, everyday problems, and worries can temporarily change our mood, making us irritable or indifferent.
Sometimes we get angry when we have to change one of our routines.
Alzheimer’s disease goes further.
It can cause psychological and behavioral changes, such as anxiety, depression, agitation, aggression, irritability, emotional changes, delusions, hallucinations, gait, and even sleep disturbances and appetite that cannot be explained by other causes.
5. Lost things vs. one loss
Where did I leave my car keys?
natural. We multitask, sometimes automatically.
When we want to remember where we put the key, our memory fails.
However, we can remember what we did when we entered the house and realized that we went straight to the kitchen, and there are the keys, on the table.
People with Alzheimer’s often miss things but are unable to retrace their steps to find them.
In addition, they often accuse others of stealing them for not remembering that they were the ones who left them there.
6. The absence of a corresponding judgment. bad decision
We all make wrong decisions due to lack of experience or impulse.
On the other hand, people with Alzheimer’s have abnormal or inappropriate behaviors, problems planning their tasks or finances, and problems solving.
They may spend or even give money unnecessarily, or pay less attention to personal care.
7. Indifference and Social Isolation Vs. tired periods
A tired day, tiredness, or lack of sleep due to all the commitments we have can temporarily turn us into people who are more welcoming and less willing to participate in social activities.
This is not the case with Alzheimer’s patients, far from it.
In their case, doing social or sporting activities is a challenge.
They can even withdraw in situations where they are exposed to other people.
It is normal for older adults to need help with tasks or complex tasks they are not used to, such as using a cell phone or programming a remote control.
However, when it significantly affects the performance of daily activities such as shopping, handling money or bank accounts, administering medications, attending medical appointments, or organizing a trip, for example, we may find ourselves at the onset of an illness.
In the advanced stages, it can affect more basic tasks, including getting dressed, taking care of hygiene, handling in the kitchen, etc.
However, it must be clarified that the presence of only one of these symptoms is not sufficient to suspect Alzheimer’s disease. You should always go to the doctor for a professional diagnosis.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease today, its early detection is essential to improve symptomatic treatment and to maintain a better quality of life during the course of the disease.
* Ines Moreno Gonzalez is Professor and Researcher in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Malaga and José Antonio Reyes is a neurologist at the University of Malaga Regional Hospital, part of the Public Health Service of Andalusia.
This article was originally published on The Conversation and republished on BBC News Brasil under a Creative Commons license. You can read the original version here.
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