As you age, you will experience a certain amount of forgetfulness and find it harder recalling new pieces of information, such as the name of a person you met for the first time last week. On the other hand, “typical signs [of dementia] are extreme forgetfulness, not just forgetting the keys here and there. Rather, forgetting where one is, whether or not one just ate, forgetting to put shoes on before going outside, and that sort of thing,” says Ross Andel, PhD, associate professor at the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida. So, when you go for your daily walk and experience a little confusion about how to get home, should you start to worry? Here are some red flags of dementia that might indicate a problem:
• Does it interfere with daily life? Now and again everyone forgets a name, but if you are consistently forgetting your appointments, can’t remember how to cook the foods you’ve always been able to, or if your family says that you’ve asked them for the same information multiple times, those are more serious signs.
• Do you have trouble thinking things through? It may be time to seek help if you start to notice that you can’t figure out how to balance your checkbook or plan the kind of trip you used to enjoy. In fact, a recent study suggests that problems remembering how to handle money foreshadows an Alzheimer’s diagnosis by up to a year.
• Are you having trouble retracing your steps? Everyone always misplaces their keys, but usually most people can retrace their steps to find them again. Signs of dementia include an inability to do this.
• Are you at a loss for words? If you are frequently unable to come up with the word or phrase you want to say, it can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Do you lose your sense of place and time? Forgetting where you are, how you got there, the order of events or even what day it is, these are all more than just “normal” signs of memory loss.
If you are noticing any of these red flags, speak with your doctor to figure out what is actually making you forgetful, i.e. is it your age or dementia.
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