Most people know that changes in memory are common as we age. The frustrating part is that memory loss, whether normal or not, interferes with our daily lives. But, how do we know when forgetting where you put your keys goes beyond ‘normal?’ At some point, loss of memory becomes an indicator for onset of dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease). It’s important to have a proper diagnosis, whether it is ‘normal’ memory loss or some form of dementia.
Thankfully, significant improvements have been made to diagnostic tools, and doctors and scientists are getting better at determining whether memory loss constitutes dementia, and much earlier than was previously possible.So what is dementia? Dementia is typically defined as a decline in mental ability to such an extent that it interferes with daily life. Memory loss is part of dementia, but dementia does not end there. ‘Dementia’ itself is not a disease, but rather a header for a host of diseases that have a common element – decline in memory or thinking skills. Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most famous form of dementia simply because it is the most common type (upwards of 80% of dementia diagnoses are Alzheimer’s).Regardless, it is important to test for dementia when the signs are there. With improved diagnostics, informed decisions can be made regarding treatment, care, and other facets of life that may be affected.