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Trends in aging: Alzheimer's vs. Normal Aging

By By Wendy McHaney
Oct. 25, 2013 at 5:25 a.m.


The average aged person can typically hold about six to eight items in short-term memory, such as being able to go to the grocery store for less than 10 items and not need a list.

Another example is having a conversation with a friend who invites you to lunch at a local restaurant and asks that you bring photos from a recent trip. Normally, you can remember the day and time of the lunch, the location, the identity of the friend you are meeting and that you are supposed to bring trip photos.

As we get older, normal aging affects the amount of things we can remember at once. Someone in their 30s may have no problem remembering the details of the lunch date, but someone in their 70s may forget one or two of the details, like the photos and perhaps the time to meet.

The Alzheimer's Association has identified 10 warning signs that could indicate Alzheimer's disease. Anyone who has experienced any of these signs, or knows someone who has, is encouraged to seek a consultation with a qualified professional.

Here are five of the signs:

1. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is forgetting recently learned information. It is normal to sometimes forget names or appointments, but forgetting important dates and asking for the same information over and over again could be a warning sign.

2. Another sign is having difficulty planning or solving problems, such as following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook, however, is normal.

3. People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or remembering the rules of a favorite game. However, difficulty with recording a program on a DVR or needing help with the settings on a new microwave are not warning signs.

4. People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time, and may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening, immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there. Normal aging, however, is getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Sometimes, vision problems can be a warning sign, such as difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. They may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room because they don't recognize their own refection.

My next column will conclude the discussion on the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's and will highlight November's National Memory Screening Day, providing information on when and where to attend a screening locally.

Sources: Alzheimer's Association and Teepa Snow, dementia care and dementia education specialist.

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit seniorhelpers.com/victoria

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