Skip to main content.
Skip subnavigation.

Normal Aging vs Alzheimer’s?

Posted November 29, 2016 by Charlotte Wiemann, MD

As we age, we tend to get a little more forgetful, which can make it difficult to tell the difference between age-related memory changes and the signs of possible Alzheimer’s. The examples below show normal signs of aging versus the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. If you suspect you or someone you care about is exhibiting the early signs of Alzheimer’s, contact Summa Health Seniors Institute for an evaluation.

  Normal Aging Alzheimer's
Forgetfulness Forgetting minor information such as social engagements or appointments, but remembering them later. Forgetting information that affects daily life, such as getting lost in familiar places, asking the same questions over and over again, inability to store new memories.
Personality Changes Creating a routine, and becoming a little irritable with change. Becoming suspicious, confused, fearful or anxious.
Poor planning Making small errors, such as minor math mistakes, but able to recognize error. Inability to perform familiar activities, such as cooking a favorite recipe or managing their bills/household duties.
Misplacing or losing items Misplacing items and retracing steps to find them later – such as keys or glasses. Placing items in unusual places, accusing others of stealing lost items, inability to retrace steps. Occurs more and more frequently.
Forgetting words Sometimes having trouble finding the right word, but no difficulty holding a conversation. Struggling to initiate participation in conversations, repeating the same stories or phrases multiple times. Inappropriate use of words, inability to name objects or familiar people.
Losing track of time Not keeping close track of time during the day, being off by only 1-2 days when trying to remember date. Forgetting the season, day or year or losing track of passage of time (day vs night, thinking 3 years ago was 1 month ago). Forgetting where they are or how they got there.


Strategies for coping with normal age-related memory changes:

  • Keep a routine and stay organized
  • Use reminders such as calendars and post-it notes
  • When learning new things repeat info or make associations
  • Participate in regular exercise 3-5 days per week
  • Eat healthy well balanced diet and get adequate sleep

Charlotte E Wiemann, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Summa Health


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.