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Differences Between Normal Forgetfulness and Dementia

Senior woman supporting a man who has received bad news hand on shoulder

What is dementia?

Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms that commonly include problems with memory, thinking, problem-solving, language, and perception. Dementia is not a disease in its own right, and it is not a natural part of aging; instead, dementia symptoms are caused by a variety of diseases that affect the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is caused by a loss of nerve cells and is a progressive condition that gradually worsens symptoms. When a nerve cell dies, it cannot be replaced, and as more and more cells die, the brain starts to shrink. This can sometimes be seen in a brain scan of someone with dementia.

Dementia or forgetfulness?

The fear of dementia and Alzheimers in older adults is common as some cognitive changes are part and parcel of normal aging. Seniors can easily forget where they put their glasses or misplace their keys. Maybe they even miss an appointment when too busy or distracted. They might forget where they parked and have to go searching the parking lot for their cars. However, forgetting your keys is one thing, but if you pick up the keys and don’t know what they’re for, it could be worrisome.

People experiencing a marked decline in memory that interferes with their everyday functions could justify a workup. However, the reality is that if someone has memory lapses or other kinds of cognitive complaints, there are very robust cognitive function screenings called neuropsychological tests. These tests have been done on seniors for years and are very useful in distinguishing the worried from those truly affected.

The good news on Alzheimer’s and related dementias

Cognitive changes are pretty standard in the population, but they don’t necessarily have to lead to dementia. Before dementia, there’s a stage we call mild cognitive impairment when people have milder difficulties that don’t interfere with daily living.

Before that, there’s a period of at least 15 years when preventive actions are vital. There’s much evidence that lifestyle interventions during this latent phase may be helpful. What you do through midlife in terms of your cognitive lifestyle, including diet, aerobic exercise, and social connectedness, all play into the success of your brain aging.

Senior Communities Like UMC are there to help.

Because senior citizens are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and related dementia, our aides work closely with our residents to help them recognize and treat this disease. Staff help seniors live a normal life while staying positive and healthy.

For more information on Assisted Living in County New Jersey Community please visit our website at

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