When does Forgetfulness become a disease?

Memory loss has its myths and stereotypes. One of these myths is that memory loss is a natural and normal part of aging. You’ve heard the self-imposed labels that often bring a smile – “Oh, he’s got the old timer’s disease” or “She’s just having one of her senior moments again”.

Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not a normal part of aging.  Some change in memory is normal as we grow older, but the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are more than simple lapses in memory.  The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a checklist of common symptoms describing the difference between normal age-related memory changes and possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

People with Alzheimer’s experience difficulties communicating, learning, thinking and reasoning.  And the resulting problems are severe enough to have an impact on an individual’s work, social activities and family life. These difficulties are signs of dementia and usually come about gradually over several years.

Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.  The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder that results in the loss of brain cells. Other common forms of dementias are Lewy Body, Frontaltemporal or Pick’s disease, vascular, and mixed-dementia, which may be a combination of vascular dementia and AD.

There is no clear-cut line between normal changes and warning signs.  If there’s a concern about a person’s level of function or memory, checking in with the doctor is recommended.  It is critical for people diagnosed with dementia and their families to receive information, care and support as early as possible. Although there is no cure, there are treatments available that help some.  Early diagnosis allows the person to participate in planning, including making legal and financial decisions.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
1.  Memory loss. Forgetting recently-learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.

2.  Difficulty performing familiar tasks. People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that were once so familiar they were nearly automatic. Individuals may forget the steps to prepare meals, use a household appliance or participate in a lifelong hobby.

3.  Problems with language. People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find the toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for “that thing for my mouth.”

4.  Disorientation to time and place. People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighborhoods, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.

5.  Poor or decreased judgment. Those with Alzheimer’s may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment about money, like giving away large sums to telemarketers.

6.  Problems with abstract thinking. Balancing a checkbook is a task that can be challenging for some. However, a person with Alzheimer’s may forget what numbers are and how they should be used.

7.  Misplacing things. Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

8.  Changes in mood or behavior. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show rapid mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason.

9.  Changes in personality. The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.

10. Loss of initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.

For more information: To download this information go to or for a free brochure on the  “10 Warning Signs” or call 1-800-848-7097.

Sources:, National Alzheimer’s Association