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Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's

It can be difficult to tell the difference between normal forgetfulness and the beginning of Alzheimer's or dementia. Occasional forgetfulness is often a normal part of ageing, but forgetfulness that worsens or affects an individual's ability to perform daily tasks could be a sign of Alzheimer's or dementia.

Because memory loss can be slowed, but not reversed, it's important to address and monitor memory loss as soon as it is noticed. 


What is Normal Age-Related Memory Loss?

Normal Memory Loss

Nearly half of individuals over the age of 60 will experience some form of difficulty with memory. This relatively minor decrease in memory is neither considered a disease nor a dementia, it is considered a normal part of ageing.

Differentiating normal age-related memory loss from Alzheimer's or dementia can be difficult. The rule of thumb is that occasional forgetfulness can be normal, but forgetfulness that is worsening or that affects daily life could be indicative of Alzheimer's or a dementia.

Normal or Alz


Symptoms of Alzheimer's and Dementia

Common Symptoms


There are many symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia. Each symptom is caused by a decrease in cognitive ability and appears by affecting an individual's lifestyle.

We discuss the most common symptoms below:

  • Disruptive Memory Loss

  • Lifestyle and Personality Changes

  • Confusion with Location or Time

  • Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks

  • Difficulty with Language & Speech


Disruptive Memory Loss


The most common symptom of Alzheimer's is memory loss. Frequently forgetting recently learned information, repeating the same questions, or relying substantially more on others to remember dates or appointments may be a sign of Alzheimer's disease.

Normal Age-Related Memory Loss:

Forgetting an appointment or birthday.

Memory Loss Which Could Indicate Alzheimer's or Dementia:

Relying heavily on others for events they were able to track on their own

(doctor appointments, social events, etc).


Difficulty with Language & Speech


Individuals with Alzheimer's may forget commonly-used words or be unable to follow or maintain a conversation. These problems may lead to difficulty holding or following a conversation.

Normal Age-Related Memory Loss:

Occasionally forgetting a name or word.

Memory Loss Which Could Indicate Alzheimer's or Dementia:

Frequently forgetting names or words, being unable to engage in or follow a conversation.


Lifestyle and Personality Changes


The difficulties that often develop as a result of Alzheimer's can lead to a withdrawal from once pleasurable activities: sports, hobbies, or social gatherings.


These withdrawals can lead to a less energetic or a depressed individual. 


If an individual appears to be withdrawing from once enjoyable activities it is important to consider and discuss why they have stopped. It could be for many reasons, but if they are due to cognitive difficulties they may be experiencing the beginning stages of Alzheimer's or dementia.

Normal Age-Related Memory Loss:

Not being as quick during the card game.

Memory Loss Which Could Indicate Alzheimer's or Dementia:

Not being able to participate in the card game because they have difficulty following the rules or its strategy.


Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks

Normal age-related memory loss often results in taking slightly longer or having  a little more difficulty in completing a once familiar task. During dementia or Alzheimer's, a once familiar task may become very difficult or even impossible to complete.

Normal Age-Related Memory Loss:

Taxes taking longer and seeming more complicated.

Memory Loss Which Could Indicate Alzheimer's or Dementia:

Attempting to complete taxes but being unable to finish.


Confusion with Location or Time


The Importance of Prevention and Monitoring

Individuals with Alzheimer's often have difficulty keeping track of time or location.


They may confuse how long ago a certain event occurred or how long they have been in a certain location.

In more advanced stages, individuals can have difficulty telling whether it is day or night or where they are.

Normal Age-Related Memory Loss:

Occasionally forgetting which day it is. Forgetting where you parked your car.

Memory Loss Which Could Indicate Alzheimer's or Dementia:

Forgetting which store you are in. Forgetting the month or year.

Prevention & Monitoring


In its early stages, Alzheimer’s is very difficult to differentiate from normal age-related memory loss. As Alzheimer’s progresses its symptoms will worsen and it will be more easily identified.

Individuals should begin treating and monitoring memory loss as soon as it is noticed. Waiting for symptoms to indicate Alzheimer’s is a dangerous decision, the individual is waiting for a disease to worsen before they treat it. While memory loss can be slowed, it cannot be reversed. Waiting to treat or monitor symptoms is losing ground that cannot be regained.


Treating and monitoring potential symptoms as early as possible ensures that the disease can be treated with maximum effect.

Individuals who believe they are experiencing memory loss symptomatic of Alzheimer’s or dementia should speak with their physician immediately.

Learn More: Alzheimer's Prevention

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