Dementia and Aging Aren’t Synonomous

25 Jun

I had my introduction to dementia on my uncle’s 91st birthday. He had been hospitalized and it was the first time I heard the term Lewy Body disease. Prior to his late 80s my uncle’s retirement years were anything but typical: at 65 he started a business and ran it quite successfully for well over 20 years. He read voraciously and could converse about complicated subjects with utter confidence.  He lived independently and his only health complaints were poor hearing and arthritic knees.

Looking back, signs of my uncle having dementia appeared long before that visit to the hospital. But I mistakenly believed those indicators were part and parcel with aging. I naively thought his increasing habit of repeating the same story over and over again was funny. It was only after he had several falls and started swearing at me that I suspected something more than normal aging was at play.

Significantly more older people than younger people will over time be diagnosed with a form of dementia because the likelihood of acquiring dementia becomes greater with age.But contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a normal part of aging.

Our brains shrink as we get older and we will experience some memory loss. But dementia is much more than just memory loss. And everyone who lives to a certain age is not destined to have dementia.  What I’ve learned since beginning my journey into life among the sandwich generation is the ubiquitous image of the dotty old aunt is a myth. Sadly it is a myth perpetuated far too often.

If you have an aging family member who is demonstrating short-term memory loss or change in personality, insist his or her doctor administer a mini mental status exam (MMSE). This is a standardized test used by the medical field to screen for cognitive impairment.

Early diagnosis won’t stop dementia from progressing, but the right medication could help to reverse or slow it down.  Early diagnosis will also help you and your family make plans for future care while your loved one is still able to have a say about how he or she wants their personal, medical and financial affairs handled.

If you would like to know more about aging and brain health, contact your local Alzheimer Society.

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One Response to “Dementia and Aging Aren’t Synonomous”


  1. Dementia | Life On My Lane - February 28, 2013

    […] Dementia. […]

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