Is It Normal? Or a Warning Sign?

Nervous laughter over age-related mental slips often masks fear over what they could portend. But every minor mix-up is not symptomatic of impending loss of cognition, say mental health experts. Here's how the Alzheimer's Association distinguishes between normal forgetfulness and warning signs of dementia that warrant a doctorÝs attention.

  Normal Warning
Memory You occasionally forget names or appointments. You can't recall recently learned information.
Familiar Tasks You occasionally forget why you came into a room or what you were going to say. You find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. You lose track of the steps to prepare a meal, place a call or play a game.
Language You sometimes have trouble finding the right word. You forget simple words or use unusual words, like "that thing for my mouth" instead of "toothbrush."
Orientation to time and place You sometimes lose track of what day of the week it is or where you were going. You get lost in your own neighborhood, or forget where you are or how you got there.
Judgment You sometimes make questionable decisions. You give away large sums of money to strangers or wear multiple layers of clothing on a warm day.
Abstract thinking You sometimes find it difficult to balance your checkbook. You forget what numbers are or how they are used.
Misplacing things You sometimes forget where you put your keys or important papers. You put an iron in the freezer or a watch in the sugar bowl.
Personality and mood Your personality changes somewhat with age. Sometimes you feel moody or sad. You undergo a dramatic change in
personality, with rapid mood swings. You
become suspicious, confused or highly
Initiative You sometimes feel tired of work or social obligations. You become extremely passive, sleep more than usual and withdraw from socializing.

-Alicia Ault

The Washington Post

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