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Five changes brought on by ageing and how they differ from symptoms of dementia

As we age, we experience many changes like loss of energy or becoming more forgetful. Here we discuss the differences between signs of ageing and signs of dementia - and what to look out for.
Signs of ageing

Five changes brought on by ageing and how they differ from symptoms of dementia

As the average age of the onset of dementia is around 80 years, it can be hard to distinguish some symptoms of dementia from ageing in general and can lead to unnecessary stress and worry.

For many people, the changes listed here will be an expected part of ageing and not necessarily a sign that anything is seriously wrong. However, it’s important to seek medical advice if you are concerned about dementia. At Eldermera, we’re experts in recognising the symptoms of dementia, and we can advise you on what kinds of preparations you should be taking. Allow us to guide you through five changes brought on by ageing that don’t always indicate the presence of dementia.

Memory loss

The main symptom that people associate with dementia is probably memory loss, but this is also common for perfectly healthy people in old age. The main difference is that people who do not have dementia will generally experience occasional forgetfulness or struggle to remember minor events that happened a long time ago, while those with dementia are likely to forget more serious things like the names of their children. Small oversights like forgetting an appointment can happen to anyone at any age, but completely forgetting something that happened earlier in the day is more concerning.

For those experiencing mild memory loss due to old age, it can be alleviated through healthy living. Exercising, eating well and staying mentally active can stave off the cobwebs. If it’s leading into dementia, then the mental activity is more important. Music is also an effective way of unlocking memory, as it utilises a part of the brain that is less affected by the disease. Research has shown that people with dementia can remember and sing along to their favourite song but not know the faces of their family.

Difficulty following a conversation

Reduced eyesight and hearing will easily affect anyone’s ability to follow conversations, and if many people are talking at once it can be challenging to keep up. Occasionally struggling with conversations, or asking for concepts to be explained in more detail, are often signs of ageing and not anything more serious. However, not being able to follow a conversation or narrative at all or losing a thread of thought regularly could be a symptom of dementia.

In the case of reduced hearing and eyesight, talking slowly and clearly can help in most cases, as can actively including your loved one in the conversation. Ask questions directly, gauge their response, and keep them mentally stimulated.

Slower reactions

As we age, our reaction times get slower. In itself this should not be a cause for concern, in fact, research indicates our reaction time already starts to slow down after the age of 24 – this is only one aspect of what is known as cognitive ageing. For people with dementia however, their cognitive function becomes more impaired, normal tasks may require much more thought and consideration than usual, and multitasking becomes a struggle. This is particularly concerning if the person affected drives a car.

There is no real way to speed up reaction time, but there are ways of making sure you do not need to use it in high-risk situations such as driving on motorways. Senior adults should consider driving slowly and having someone else in the car helping with directions, to remove some of the pressure and allow them to drive safely.

Please note that driving with dementia is still possible as long as the person with dementia reports the diagnosis to the DVLA/DVA and has an assessment with a doctor.

Changes in mood or temperament

Ageing involves many changes like retirement, losing friends and family, or reduced mobility. All these things can lead to low moods or a sense of isolation. Becoming weary of socialising, or not appearing as upbeat as usual is not a sign of dementia, but severe mood swings or depression should always be looked into. After all, it might not be dementia, but it’s best to address the issue and get help regardless.

It’s worth remembering that low moods in senior adults can often come about due to boredom. It’s a painful cycle but easily broken by spending some time with them, bringing activities such as board games along that can encourage them to begin talking and socialising again.

Becoming easily tired

Lower energy levels are associated with ageing, and it’s no secret that younger people are generally more energetic and physically fit. This is mainly due to physical factors; older people’s muscles will lose mass and flexibility, which makes movement more tiring overall. However, for people with dementia tiredness is linked with brain function. For some sufferers, the brain has to work much harder to perform tasks, reducing energy levels. It’s a condition known as dementia fatigue, and it can be very serious.

Fatigue has so many causes that it can be difficult to figure out which one is at work, but it can help to enforce a healthy lifestyle. Plan out mealtimes, make sure that they are sleeping at night, and check to see if any medicines they are using have drowsiness as a side effect. See a doctor if symptoms of drowsiness get worse.

Preparing for the future with Eldermera

There are things everyone should think about as they age: making a Final Will and Testament, saving for future care, and deciding on care options. For people diagnosed with dementia, these matters are even more important as time is more limited.

If you have recently been diagnosed with dementia, Eldermera can assist you with any aspect of dementia law and help you plan for the future. This can involve arranging Lasting Power of Attorney or applying for NHS Continuing Care.

If you are worried you may have dementia it is vital to get tested as soon as possible – the earlier you act, the more time you will have to make arrangements for the future. At Eldermera we can also advise you on the steps you need to take to get an accurate diagnosis.

To find out more about how Eldermera can help, use our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert care advocates.

Alternatively, call us on:

National tel: 0330 022 5778

Tel: 0207 030 4923