I lost my keys again! Do I have dementia?


Confusion about memory and aging has been making headlines lately. We all experience changes in memory and thinking as we age. Most of these changes are normal. When changes begin to impact how you or your loved one functions in your daily life, you should speak with a clinician.

Changes in memory and thinking are normal as we age. Our response time slows down, and our memory slips on occasion. Vocabulary and reasoning stay the same or even improve as we age. Changes that occur with aging generally do not impact how we function in our daily lives.

Dementia is not a part of normal aging. Dementia is an umbrella term for changes in memory and thinking that impair how a person functions (see our recent post here for more info on this). People with dementia may not realize they are experiencing these changes. It can be challenging to know when changes in cognition are normal and when to seek care for ourselves or others. Here are some examples of changes in cognition that occur with normal aging compared with signs of dementia.


Normal Aging: Occasionally forgetting names or appointments. Forgetfulness can be worse in stressful circumstances. Usually, people recall details later.

Signs of Dementia: People with early stages of dementia have trouble learning new information and will ask the same question over and over again without realizing it. Even with memory aids like phones, notepads, and other people, they may have difficulty retaining new information.

Organizing and Planning

Normal Aging: Making mistakes here or there when managing household bills, planning an event, or preparing a meal.

Signs of Dementia: Making frequent mistakes, even with familiar recipes. Making errors in keeping track of household finances, like repeatedly forgetting to pay bills on time or paying them more than once. It may take significantly longer to complete tasks than previously.


Normal Aging: Having the feeling that a word is on the tip of your tongue but remembering it later.

Signs of Dementia: Mispronouncing words frequently or not understanding words that people are saying.


Normal Aging: Difficulty with driving at night.

Signs of Dementia: Seeing things that are not there. Having trouble judging distance or color. Difficulty driving during the day, even in familiar locations.


Normal Aging: Slower reaction time and ability to perform two tasks at once, like talking on the phone and driving.

Signs of Dementia: Tremor, closing a limb in a door.


Normal Aging: Making a mistake or a bad decision here or there. Having particular preferences and becoming irritable when your routine is disrupted.

Signs of Dementia: Frequently falling for scams. Saying inappropriate things even when being told not to. Becoming suspicious, fearful, or anxious, especially in unfamiliar circumstances.

There are also a number of other conditions that can cause changes in memory or thinking, like diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, infectious diseases, anxiety, depression, and substance misuse. If you are worried that you or your loved one are experiencing changes that are beyond normal aging, schedule an appointment with a clinician for an evaluation.

Stay safe! Be well!
Those Nerdy Girls

Link to Original Substack Post