Question: I am 31, married with two kids, and am caregiver for my 83 year old grandma. My question is how do you tell the difference between normal aging and Alzheimer's? My grandma remembers mostly all past things—parents, siblings, and things about her childhood. But she has been going to the same doctor for 10 years and got lost going for her visit. She also forgets who people are— like her deceased brother’s girlfriend or people from church. She forgot her nephew’s name and said her brother didn't have a son named that. Sometimes she is repetitive. These are things I can think of off the top of my head. I'm going to try and go back to work but am nervous. I don't want anything to happen to her while I'm gone. She can still care for herself but sometimes I question her memory. She only had one child and that's my mother. I'm all alone in this. I won't let her go to a home. She is an amazing woman! Any help or advice is appreciated!
Dr. Amy: A certain amount of memory loss is considered a normal part of aging. We may forget where we put our keys, or struggle to find the right word from time to time. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not a normal part of aging. The Alzheimer’s Association explains the difference in this article.
To find out whether your grandma is suffering from dementia, I encourage you to arrange for her to have a thorough assessment. Her doctor can refer you to a specialist in your community. The assessment is more involved than an annual check up. It will involve memory tests as well as medical tests. The assessment should also look at your house. It will help identify safety hazards and see if any changes are needed to keep your grandma safe. The results of the assessment will help you decide if you need to consider having caregiving support while you are at work.
I think it is so great that you see your grandma as amazing. According to a Chinese proverb, a family that has an old person in it has a golden treasure. It sounds like you are perfectly aware of this. Lucky for both of you!
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