Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease

There’s no test to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in patients. Other conditions share similar symptoms, and may complicate diagnosis. Learn more ›

Remember This: Many Have Memory Lapses

Unpredictable, frustrating and, at times, embarrassing memory lapses are moments many of us would rather forget. Yet if frequent bouts of forgetfulness are causing you stress and worry, take note-there is most likely a simple explanation.

There is a big difference between losing cognitive function in the brain--or losing the ability to remember--and simply having difficulty recalling information. Most commonly, random memory problems are associated with the normal aging process or are a result of lifestyle stresses.

To understand the memory process, think of the brain as a road map and each memory as a different destination. Just as roads are used to reach each destination, repetition, association, and other mental cues are used to access memories. The more roads leading to and from each memory, the easier it will be for a person to find it when they need to.

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Did you know that Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia?

Helping Someone With Memory Loss

Diagnosing memory problems can be confusing. In older people, it's easy to mistake such problems for the everyday forgetfulness that some people experience as they grow older.

"However, if a person's memory problems are severe and persistent and accompanied by other changes that make it difficult for him or her to cope with everyday life, the person may have Alzheimer's disease or dementia," says Daniel Kaplan, CSW, LICSW, director of social services at the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

One should be assessed by a doctor:

  • When the person is unable to remember familiar things or people.

  • When the person is increasingly forgetful or has trouble remembering recent events.

  • When the person has trouble doing familiar things, such as cooking.

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Did You Know?

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More than 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's disease, with a new person developing the disease every 70 seconds. Americans ages 65 and older with Alzheimer's and dementia pay three times as much in health care costs.