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As we age, we can experience physical challenges like aching joints or decreased mobility. In addition to these physical challenges, we also increase the chances of cognitive decline as we get older. However, it is important to note that not all cognitive loss is a normal part of aging. In fact, though Alzheimer’s disease and dementia diagnoses do increase with age, these types of progressive conditions are not a normal part of aging at all.

How can you tell the difference between normal aging and dementia? There are a few key distinctions that can help you determine whether it is time to visit a physician, or to take a deep breath and relax.


One way to determine whether you or your loved one is experiencing normal aging processes or dementia symptoms is to evaluate decision-making and judgment. Everyone makes a poor decision every once in a while; this is normal. Falling for a scam once, for example, does not indicate dementia. However, consistently making poor decisions or showing bad judgment most of the time can indicate a cognitive challenge that needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Memory Loss

Forgetting why you walked into a room or where you put your keys when you got home from the grocery store is normal if it happens occasionally. By contrast, if memory loss is affecting daily life, it is wise to make an appointment with a physician to talk more about it. 

General Confusion or Getting Lost

It is not a normal sign of aging to get lost in your own neighborhood or favorite spots around town. Similarly, normal aging does not include feelings of general confusion or asking repetitive questions. These are common, though, during the early stages of dementia and should be discussed with a physician immediately.

Withdrawing from Friends

If you have never been a social butterfly, or if you have a history of declining social invitations, choosing to stay at home instead of heading out to meet friends could be a normal sign of aging. However, if someone you love was always out and about with friends, attending book clubs or sharing meals, and has suddenly stopped doing these things, this could indicate some memory decline. Typically, people living through the early stages of dementia know that they are forgetting, which can make them shy away from social functions that are too distracting or embarrassing. Withdrawing from favorite activities and friends can indicate a concern that should be discussed with a doctor.

Word Finding and Communication Challenges

Have you ever struggled to find the word you were looking for during a conversation? That is normal. By contrast, struggling to find words during every conversation or misunderstanding words while listening can often point to cognitive decline.

Finding Help Now

If you or your loved one is exhibiting some signs of early memory loss, it is never too early to talk to a doctor about it. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that early detection is crucial for dementia, because it allows the diagnosed person to be more involved with future planning and to maximize the options for treatment or clinical trials. Though it may seem scary to visit a doctor and talk about memory challenges or concerns, having a diagnosis can often offer relief and even empowerment.

If you or your loved one receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it is wise to begin planning for safe future living solutions. At Arbor Terrace Naperville, our Evergreen memory care neighborhood was designed just for adults who are living with dementia. Our specialized neighborhood not only offers a day full of engaging activities and the comforting rituals of home, but our staff also excels in providing personalized care interventions based on every unique resident.

Learn more about finding a community that can serve you and your loved one by downloading our free guide, “Finding a Safe & Comfortable Senior Living Community.” Discover what to look for in order to make your most confident decision and then call the experts at Arbor Terrace Naperville to learn more about our services.

We are here to provide exceptional care to our residents and meaningful support to their family members. 

Safe & Comfortable Guide

The Arbor Company

About the Author: The Arbor Company

Through a commitment to developing an outstanding and tenured staff, The Arbor Company maintains a progressive clinical and competitive edge that embraces both resident and family needs.

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