Normal Forgetfulness vs Dementia
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Normal Forgetfulness vs Dementia

Forgetting things is sometimes an everyday part of life. It’s the reason to-do lists, reminder apps, and tying a string around your finger all exist. As people age, it’s possible they may experience more frequent episodes of memory loss, and this is often a normal part of aging. So how can older adults tell if what they are experiencing is normal aging symptoms, or signs of something worse, like Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia? 

Normal age related forgetfulness can be frustrating, but often not serious and no cause for alarm. Typical normal symptoms for older adults include:  

  • Transience and absentmindedness: Transience is when the brain forgets some memories over time. Research has suggested this can be a good thing, because the brain is removing unused or old memories to make room for new ones. Absentmindedness is similar, in that it relates to your brain’s focus. For instance, forgetting an appointment because you weren’t preoccupied with the thought of it. 

  • Forgetfulness: The National Institute on Aging tells us there are many health conditions that aren’t dementia, but still can contribute to memory loss. For example, people suffering from depression often get mistaken for having the symptoms of dementia. People with chronic illnesses may be preoccupied with their health condition, leading them to have forgetfulness when it comes to other topics. 

Memory loss linked to dementia is progressive, meaning it gets steadily worse over time. Dementia symptoms go beyond just forgetting where you set something down, and involves the loss of important information, like forgetting the names or faces of long time friends and family members.