Dementia or normal aging? 5 signs to look for with memory loss

Continuing issues with memory loss can cause a heightened fear of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

For adults, particularly in their 60s and 70s, occasional forgetfulness is nothing to worry about.

Sometimes you forget what day it is but remember it later. It’s common for older adults to occasionally forget something as simple as where they placed car keys or the name of the person they just met.

Cognitive decline is to be expected. Normal aging may mean the brain processes at slower speeds so multitasking is more difficult. Routine memory, skills and knowledge are stable and may even improve with age.

Continuing issues with memory loss, however, can cause a heightened fear of dementia as opposed to normal aging.

“These changes can be a nuisance and at times frustrating,” said Rachel N. Hart, D.O., a geriatric medicine specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute Memory Center. “It’s important not to worry too much about this. For most people, these changes will be the result of normal aging and aren’t indicative of dementia.”

2023 Alzheimer’s Derby Luncheon

Join specialists from Norton Neuroscience Institute Memory Center on Tuesday, May 2, to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and celebrate progress in treating it. During this lunch program, attendees will learn about the memory center, our approach to patient care and available multidisciplinary support services.

Comparing signs of dementia and normal aging

Dementia includes not only memory loss but difficulties with cognition and the ability to carry on one’s life and daily activities.

Not all people experience the same symptoms. There are several distinctions that can be made between dementia and normal aging.

Normal aging

  • Having troubles concentrating and often difficulty finding the right word
  • Slow to think things through or juggle multiple tasks
  • Occasional feelings of anxiety or moodiness
  • Confusion about the day or a location but remembering later
  • Misplacing common items but able to find them


  • Issues with language skills; asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Difficulty paying attention or completing a task
  • Irritability or changes in personality
  • Disorientation as to the date; getting lost in a familiar place
  • Continually misplacing items

Lack of sleep; stress or anxiety; even medications — all can play a role in occasional memory loss. Techniques such as creating lists or taking notes can help make these moments of forgetfulness less troubling and cut down on any disruptions to your daily routine.

When to see your doctor about memory loss

Coming to terms with memory loss and the possible onset of a more serious condition can be difficult. Getting a prompt diagnosis from a doctor is key in determining if further testing is required.

When ongoing memory loss and forgetfulness require medical attention, your doctor may ask a simple set of questions in order to assess the severity of the impairment. The questions might touch on the onset of the symptoms, the type of tasks that seem difficult, whether you’ve started any new drug or if a recent head injury or other trauma may have occurred.

Further blood and brain-imaging testing also may be required in order to give an accurate diagnosis, develop a care plan and provide support.

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