Back to Resources
Memory Loss vs. Normal Aging: Recognizing the Differences

Memory Loss vs. Normal Aging: Recognizing the Differences

As the body changes with age, so does the brain. According to the National Institute on Aging, it’s common for older adults to take more time to recollect things and have difficulty with multitasking and concentration. Like these, memory issues are a part of the normal aging process, but some memory loss might be a sign of potential health issues like dementia. 

Knowing what is typical and what might require medical attention is helpful before you start searching for memory care in Phoenix. At BridgeWater Assisted Living, we understand the challenges that come with aging and offer this guidance to help you and your loved ones. 

Normal Aging

Many people experience memory loss at different ages and for different reasons. While memory lapses aren’t a concern for alarm, they are something to be aware of. As you’ll soon see, educating yourself about them is good.

According to an article from Harvard Medical School, there are seven types of typical memory issues. 

  • Transience, a normal housecleaning function of the brain, clears out memories and facts over time to make room for new things. It eliminates some old memories, allowing you the space to create new ones. 
  • Absentmindedness occurs when you don’t pay close attention to someone speaking and cannot recall what they asked you to do or when you lose something because you were thinking about something else when you put it down and have to retrace your steps to find it.
  • A block is when something is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite access it because a similar memory is in its way. 
  • Misattribution occurs when you partially remember something, but some details are inaccurate because your brain fills in some parts inaccurately. The memory is there, but the few facts your brain doesn’t remember, it just fills in the blanks. 
  • Suggestibility is the fact that suggestions and personal biases can influence memories. Information you learn after the memory is formed can be mixed up with the memory itself, fooling your mind into thinking the fact is actually your memory of the incident.
  • Bias is the personal filter through which you see your memories. It is essential to recognize that various factors, including your current mood, impact the functioning of your memory and your brain’s ability to recall information.
  • Persistence is based on the idea that the most persistent memories often tend to be traumatic, potentially distorting one’s perception of reality. You tend to want to block those memories out, making them challenging to recall.

Knowing that these memory issues are a part of aging is helpful. It’s also a great reminder that these might be occurring to avoid conflict and misunderstanding, especially if you remember that your memory can be faulty and is subject to your own biases and perceptions. Overall, if you’re experiencing these common memory lapses, you’re experiencing the normal part of aging. 

Signs It’s Time to Seek Medical Advice

It can be challenging to know when to seek medical advice, but it can also be incredibly frightening. It’s important to understand what is happening, but it’s also helpful to know that there are changes that can occur that aren’t necessarily dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is key to seek the proper medical assessment from your physician to understand what is happening so you can start early intervention. 

A change can occur in older adults called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Symptoms of MCI include memory loss, impaired thinking skills, language difficulty, disorientation in time and space, poor judgment, and depth perception. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, this condition is not as severe, and people can live and carry on with their daily routines. It does, however, pose a higher risk of developing dementia. 

The Alzheimer’s Association states there are ten early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The symptoms related to memory can present in different ways. One of the signs is that a person will ask the same question repeatedly. They might also repeat questions or statements or forget that conversations have taken place. 

Another warning sign is when a person forgets appointments or events and needs frequent reminders like notes or having friends or loved ones remind them. Memory loss that indicates there might be a bigger problem manifests when a person gets lost in a place that they know very well or can’t find a place that they’ve been to many times before. A person might also forget the name or mix up common words like a clock or a door and call it something else. They might also forget the rules for one of their favorite games. Another sign might be losing items and misplacing them in strange places but being unable to retrace their steps to find the item. 

Another sign of a memory issue is when the person forgets the time of day, season, or year. Sometimes, people forget where they are and even how they got there. These are all indications that something bigger is happening and that an assessment by a doctor is necessary. 

Fortunately, we live in a time where there is more help for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Early intervention and lifestyle changes can significantly help those with the disease. Memory care can be a beautiful change and greatly improve the lives of those with the disease. There is also assistance for family members and caregivers to help navigate the different programs and resources for their loved ones. There are also support groups for both family members and those experiencing dementia. As more research is done, more medical interventions and technology become available. 

While living with Alzheimer’s and dementia isn’t easy, there is help available. At BridgeWater Assisted Living, we believe everyone deserves to live with the highest quality of life possible. If you are looking for memory care in Phoenix, we would love to show you our community that prioritizes individual care. Please contact us through our website and contact form, and let us show you what’s possible.