When is forgetfulness considered part of normal ageing and when could it be a sign of early dementia? Dr Ng Kok Pin, Senior Consultant of Neurology from National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), answers.
We have all encountered instances where we forgot a person’s name or misplaced certain items, but when is forgetfulness due to normal ageing and when
could it be a sign of early dementia? Read on to find out.
“Memory lapses can be a normal part of life, especially as we age.
A key warning sign that it may be an early sign of dementia is
when forgetfulness and confusion affect daily activities,” explains
Dr Ng Kok Pin, Senior Consultant from the
Department of Neurology at
National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the
Dementia describes a group of symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, confusion and behavioural changes, which are severe enough to cause loss of function.
Dementia is not part of normal aging, though the elderly are more prone. Dementia occurs when the brain function gradually fails, affecting day-to-day activities.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia.
Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia can help patients and their families adapt to their condition and receive the support they need to maximise their quality of life with dementia.
Early dementia symptoms vs normal ageing
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Forgetting information you have recently learnt
Forgetting important dates or events, e.g. birthdays and appointments
Asking the same question repeatedly
Having to rely more on memory aids, e.g. sticky notes, reminders
Normal ageing: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
2) Difficulty planning or solving problems
Problems following a plan, e.g. a familiar recipe
Difficulty with numbers, e.g. tracking monthly expenses
Taking longer to do things than before
Normal ageing: Making occasional mistakes when managing finances or household bills.
3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks
At work, e.g. arranging a meeting
At home, e.g. writing a grocery list, driving to familiar locations
For leisure, e.g. following the rules of games such as mahjong and golf
Normal ageing: Occasionally needing help to use an electrical appliance or forgetting an item from the grocery list.
4) Confusion with time or place
Normal ageing: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
5) Trouble understanding pictures and distance
Problems judging distance, e.g. when parking a car
Problems seeing colours or contrast affecting driving ability
Normal ageing: Poor vision caused by eye conditions such as cataracts
6) Problems with speaking or writing
Trouble following a conversation
Stopping in the middle of a conversation
Difficulty finding the right word and/or names of familiar objects
Normal ageing: Sometimes having problems finding the right word, especially words that are not used often.
7) Misplacing items
Losing items and being unable to retrace steps to find them again
May accuse others of stealing, especially as dementia progresses
Normal ageing: Misplacing things such as keys or pens from time to time and being able to retrace steps to find them
8) Decreased or poor judgement
Normal ageing: Making a mistake once in a while
9) Withdrawal from work or social activities
Normal ageing: Sometimes feeling uninterested in family or social gatherings
10) Changes in mood and personality
Normal ageing: Has a usual way of doing things and becoming irritated when routine is disrupted.
If you or a loved one displays any of the above-mentioned signs, do visit your family doctor or a polyclinic for further assessment.
Watch the video!
Check out other articles on dementia:
6 Natural Ways to Prevent Dementia
7 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp
Young Onset Dementia: Dementia That Affects the Young
Dementia in Singapore: Fast Facts
Dementia: What You Need to Know
Dementia Caregiver Tips: Do's and Don'ts
Dementia and Depression: Is There a Link?
Brain Diseases: Early Signs to Look Out For