ATrain Education

 

Continuing Education for Health Professionals

Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias, 1 unit

Module 2

Normal Age-Related Changes

We all experience changes as we age. Some people become forgetful when they get older. They may forget where they left their keys. They may also take longer to do certain mental tasks. They may not think as quickly as they did when they were younger. These are called age-related changes. These changes are normal—they are not caused by dementia.

Age-related changes don’t affect a person’s life very much. Someone with age-related changes can easily do everything in their daily lives—they can prepare their own meals, drive a car safely, go shopping, and use a computer. They understand when they are in danger. They know how to take care of themselves. Even though they might not think or move as fast as when they were young, their thinking is normal—they do not have dementia.

The table below describes some of the differences between someone who is aging normally and someone who has ADRD.

 

Normal Aging vs. ADRD

Normal aging

AD or other dementia

Occasionally loses keys

Cannot remember what a key does

May not remember names of people they meet

Cannot remember names of spouse and children—don’t remember meeting new people

May get lost driving in a new city

Get lost in own home, forget where they live

Can use logic (for example, if it is dark outside it is night time)

Can no longer think logically (if it is dark outside it could be morning or evening)

Dresses, bathes, feeds self

Cannot remember how to fasten a button, operate appliances, or cook meals

Participates in community activities such as driving, shopping, exercising, and traveling

Cannot independently participate in community activities, shop, or drive

 

In some older adults, memory problems are a little bit worse than normal age-related changes. When this happens, the person has mild cognitive impairment, also called MCI.

Mild cognitive impairment isn’t dementia. You won’t generally see personality changes, just a little more difficulty than is normal with thinking and memory. For some people, mild cognitive impairment gets worse and develops into dementia, but this doesn’t happen with everyone.

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