Because I have people on both sides of my family who have suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia, I know I am particularly sensitive to my cognitive state. But, I believe that is typical of everyone over 50 years old.
Misplacing keys. Forgetting names. Struggling to find the right word. Walking into a room and forgetting why.
Are these early signs of dementia? Or normal signs of aging?
It all depends on the circumstances, health experts say. To distinguish between changes associated with typical aging and concerning signs of cognitive loss requires a deeper look.
“Instead of thinking about things in terms of what is a sign of dementia, I would ask, ‘What is the situation in which those signs appear?'” said Dr. Jeffrey Keller, founder and director of the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It’s how the brain functions in response to a challenge that demonstrates early changes that can lead to dementia.”
In other words, a person experiencing normal aging may experience some memory lapses, he said. But more important than whether they’ve misplaced their keys is whether they’re able to retrace their steps to find them. Or whether they can retain information long enough to carry out a multi-part task, such as filling out medical or tax forms, even if interrupted while doing so.