The stages of Alzheimer’s vs. age-related changes


When we experience changes in our ability to follow a recipe or keep track of the monthly bills, for example, it can be age-related and then we will only make occasional errors.

But, when my husband developed Alzheimer’s, he had trouble completing familiar tasks at home, and maybe at work but I wasn’t there to see what was going on. Once he had trouble getting from work back home. If this had been purely age-related, he would have realized where he was after a few moments. Another example: when turning on the television, he might have had a temporary lapse of memory, but with Alzheimer’s, there were times when I had to help him by operating the remote.

It’s easy for someone with Alzheimer’s to lose track of dates and the passage of time. If something is not happening right now, it became difficult for him to understand that concept. If this were age-related, the person might show confusion about the day of the week, but would figure it out.

A person with Alzheimer’s has trouble understanding spatial relationships and visual images. My husband had problems with vision, with reading, judging distance and determining color contrasts. Someone with an age-related problem would have vision changes caused by a cataract, maybe.

A person with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining in a conversation, may stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea how to continue. He often had problems finding words and called objects by the wrong name, or forgot how to describe them. A person with an age-related problem has trouble finding the right word occasionally; but don’t we all after a certain age?

Someone with Alzheimer’s misplaces familiar objects and may accuse someone of stealing them. Someone with an age-related problem only misplaces objects from time to time.
A person with Alzheimer’s has changes in mood and in personality too but my family was lucky as my husband’s character did not undergo these changes. He simply became much quieter. There are people who change from being suspicious to confused, to depressed, fearful or anxious. They become upset easily specifically in a place where they are not in their comfort zone. But an age-related change is when a person develops specific ways of doing something and becomes irritable when that routine is disrupted.

Someone with Alzheimer’s often experiences changes in decision-making as well as in judgment, especially when dealing with money. If it were age-related, the individual makes bad decisions infrequently.

My husband became less interested in socializing, in his beloved hobby of philately, as well as in other social activities. If he had only been suffering from an age-related change, he would have missed a day or so of working on his hobby or choose to miss out on a social obligation.

Alzheimer’s is a serious illness, so please don’t go around saying; ‘I can’t find my keys. I’m probably getting Alzheimer’s!

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One thought on “The stages of Alzheimer’s vs. age-related changes

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