Neurosurgery and Brain Health Dementia or Old Age? Know the Difference By UPMC, July 20, 2018 As people age, some adults may notice it takes longer to learn new tasks or activities. Retaining information is more difficult. They may also lose items more easily, such as eyeglasses or car keys. It’s common to become more forgetful, or to have trouble recalling certain dates or the details of past experiences. But in some cases, a failing memory is a sign of dementia. How can you tell the difference between normal aging and dementia? The primary difference between the two is that mild forgetfulness does not significantly impact a person’s life, while dementia can have permanent, debilitating effects. As one of the best-rated geriatrics programs in the country, UPMC Geriatric Services strives to maintain a patient’s quality of life and independence. To make an appointment with one of our geriatricians, call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). For more information, visit our website. What Is Dementia? Dementia is a broad term that refers to serious memory problems that can affect cognitive abilities like reasoning or language. The memory problem is sometimes caused by Alzheimer’s disease or can be the result of another age-related condition, such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. RELATED: Is Hearing Loss a Normal Part of Aging? In many cases, the mind of someone with dementia deteriorates over time until they can no longer complete tasks they used to be able to do. People with dementia may no longer be able to work, clean their home, pay bills, or drive. They may also become lost in familiar areas, forget to turn off the stove, or be unable to remember recent conversations with family members. While dementia can be age-related and commonly occurs in older adults, it is not an inevitable result of aging, and most seniors will never develop it. Knowing the Difference Between Dementia and Normal Aging Knowing the difference between normal aging and dementia can help you identify the condition sooner. Some signs of normal aging include occasionally making poor decisions, losing items from time to time, forgetting the right word to use, or struggling to remember the date, but remembering it later. Those with dementia exhibit more extreme memory issues such as trouble taking care of monthly bills, regularly making poor decisions, losing track of the day or year, difficulty having conversations, or misplacing items and being unable to find them again. Signs of Dementia Dementia symptoms can vary, though these are the most common signs: Memory loss Lack of personal care, such as grooming and hygiene Trouble recognizing people, places, and events Difficulty finding the right words Inability to focus and pay attention Trouble with reasoning and judgment Difficulty controlling moods Changes in visual perception An early diagnosis of dementia enables you or your loved one to receive the maximum benefits from dementia treatments, and allows you to better plan for the future. You should talk with your primary care provider or geriatrician about any signs of dementia you or a loved one are experiencing. As one of the best-rated geriatrics programs in the country, UPMC Geriatric Services strives to maintain a patient’s quality of life and independence. To make an appointment with one of our geriatricians, call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). For more information, visit our website.