There are plenty of ways to track your physical health. You can measure things like weight, waist size, blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and the list goes on. It’s different when it come to your brain health, though. Things aren’t always so clear.
What we do know is that there are will experience some level of mild memory loss that has nothing to do with dementia, and everything to do with normal aging.
So when you forget where you left your keys or that you had an appointment it’s hard to tell if those are just normal signs of aging, or if they’re the first signs of dementia. Just how concerned should you be when you can’t find your glasses, or stumble for a word? Is it normal – or not?
Relax, we can help take some of that worry away with these eight “Brain Burp of Bad News?” scenarios.
1. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Forgetting a conversation that took place a year ago, or forgetting the details of a conversation that took place more recently, but remembering the conversation happened. Especially if you remember the details when reminded, or on your own eventually.
Not: Forgetting the details of a recent conversation, and not being able to recall them later. Especially forgetting the conversation took place at all.
2. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance.
Not: Not being able to remember the name of a family member or close friend.
3. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Misplacing items occasionally, and being able to retrace your steps in order to try to find them.
Not: Misplacing items, but then not being able to retrace your steps. Perhaps you can’t remember where you’ve been, or you get lost or forget what you’re doing when you try to retrace them.
4. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Difficulty finding words sometimes, but remembering them eventually. You don’t have trouble holding a conversation.
Not: Difficulty finding words, and not being able to remember them. Substituting incorrect words or phrases for the words you’ve forgotten, rather than just laughing it off and finding a synonym, can also be a sign of dementia.
5. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Minor changes in managing a household. You may forget a single payment, or skip a night doing the dishes, but have no real problem holding life together.
Not: Major changes in managing a household. You start forgetting to pay your bills, can’t handle a budget, and household routines start to fall apart altogether.
6. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Vision starts to change. You may need thicker glasses, or move from wearing just readers to wearing prescriptions all the time. You may even develop cataracts, which are unpleasant, but not dementia-related.
Not: Vision changes make it more difficult to judge the height of stairs, or the angle of a slope. Passing a mirror may cause you to think someone else is in the room, rather than registering as your reflection.
7. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: Your memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but you know it. You’re aware of—and may even find humor in—senior moments and brain burps.
Not: Memory starts to go, and you aren’t aware of it. This is actually a big one. Not being aware of losing a step in a process, not knowing what people are talking about when they remind you of something you’ve said, or not remembering even when prompted aren’t typically just normal aging.
8. Brain Burp or Bad News?
Normal: You’re worried about your little memory slips, but your family isn’t. As we age it’s normal to worry about dementia and even to become hyper aware of every little slip. But if your loved ones haven’t noticed anything concerning, you can count that in the normal category.
Not: Your family is worried, but you’re not. People in the early stages of dementia are often oblivious to the changes taking place in their behavior (see #7). This can make family members concerned before you ever know there’s a problem.
If you recognized yourself, or a loved one, in some of the “Bad News” scenarios and you’re concerned or have questions you can contact the Alzheimer’s Association 24 hour helpline at 1-800-272-3900.