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Understanding the Aging Brain and Dementia

Understanding the Aging Brain and Dementia

Our brains certainly change as we age, but Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are not an inevitable part of the aging process. It’s important to understand what’s normal regarding brain health and what might be an early sign of dementia. The earlier Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are diagnosed, the more effectively treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Normal brain aging may mean slower processing and trouble multitasking, but normal memory, vocabulary, and knowledge often remain stable or even improve with age. And while some short-term memory loss and absentmindedness are normal as we get older, more significant changes may indicate something more serious.

The Difference between Normal Aging and Dementia

Common signs of normal brain aging include:

  • Occasionally making a bad decision
  • Missing an appointment or monthly payment
  • Forgetting what day it is
  • Sometimes forgetting which word you want to use
  • Misplacing items on occasion

Those with dementia have symptoms of cognitive decline that interfere with daily life – including problems with language, memory, attention span, recognition, problem solving, and decision-making.

Common signs of dementia that are not consistent with normal aging include:

  • Inability to complete simple tasks without help
  • Forgetting the names of familiar people, such as close friends and relatives
  • Forgetting the names or function of common items
  • Repeating statements or questions
  • Misplacing items often or putting items in strange places they don’t belong
  • Getting lost even when in a familiar place

How to Practice Supportive Communication

If your loved one is living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it can be very difficult to adjust to. Your priority is to do whatever you can to make your loved one feel supported, limit their frustration, and communicate with them as best as you can.

  • Use what is known as “the positive physical approach,” which means staying where they can clearly see you and using a supportive and nonconfrontational stance, preferably at eye-level.
  • Be empathetic and acknowledge their emotions and preferences to lessen their anxiety or distress.
  • Speak clearly, calmly, and slowly, but refrain from speaking too loudly (unless your loved one has hearing loss) or harshly. Use short, simple sentences.
  • Listen carefully and offer encouragement both verbally and nonverbally, such as by making eye contact and nodding.
  • If they have difficulty finding the right word or finishing their sentence, ask them to explain it in a different way.
  • Allow time between sentences so that they can process what you’ve said and think about how to respond.
  • Keep your body language open and relaxed.

Compassionate Memory Care at Courtyard

If your loved one is experiencing any warning signs of dementia, we can help.

At the Courtyard at Longview, Christian Health’s specialized memory-care residence, those with early-stage dementia thrive in a community that prioritizes safety and comfort while promoting independence, activity, and social interaction.

Courtyard at Longview offers special programs and an extensive calendar of fun and engaging activities and events to improve memory, ease anxiety, and bring residents out of their shell so that they are happier, brighter, and higher functioning. Our priority is ensuring your loved one enjoys an optimal quality of life so that you and your family rest assured that they are in excellent hands.

If you think Courtyard at Longview is right for your loved one, please call (201) 848-4303 or send an email to Victoria Durante at