Alzheimer’s & Dementia Blog

How to Decide If a Loved One Has Dementia vs Normal Aging

Watching a loved one's capabilities decline can be tough, but how do you know whether it's normal aging vs dementia? At the Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center, one of the most common concerns we address is whether a loved one is dealing with early-stage dementia or normal aging. 

While everyone is different and each individual's situation can vary, we've outlined a few key points on the topic to ideally provide clarity. Let's take a closer look at dementia vs the normal aging process. 

The Normal Aging Process

Time is something we all have to contend with; and if we are fortunate enough, we get to age. Signs of aging can begin as early as 30 and can vary from person to person. Aging can impact almost every aspect of one's being. Some of the most common signs of aging include the following. 

Bone Density Reduction

As you age, your bones will shrink and reduce in density, which makes them more fragile and susceptible to breakage. The cartilage in your joints may also begin wearing away, which can lead to stiffness and pain. 

Pulmonary Changes 

Stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries can make the heart work harder. This can lead to physical activities, such as walking uphill or walking long distances can become more challenging. 

Bowel and Bladder Changes

With age, the bladder loses its elasticity, which may cause it to hold less urine than previously. This can lead to more trips to the bathroom, while changes in the bowel can lead to fewer trips or constipation. 

Muscle Loss

Every decade after the age of 30, muscle mass will decrease 3 to 5%, and this rate increases once an individual is over the age of 60. In either case, muscles lose flexibility, strength, and endurance over time.

Changes in Vision

As we age, the lens in the eye is likely to harden, which leads to far-sightedness development. In addition, cataracts cause blurred vision and can lead to blindness if left untreated. 

Skin Changes

One of the most visible changes associated with aging is the loss of skin elasticity, which causes wrinkles. At the same time, the skin becomes more delicate and thin, making it easier to bruise. 

Mental Health Changes

Aging can cause different results in different people. While some may be depressed while adapting to the changes, others may experience a sense of fulfillment. 

Cognitive Changes Associated with Aging 

In general, the normal aging process can lead to difficulty with multitasking and slower processing speeds. However, routine memory, knowledge, and skills are often stable or may even improve with age. It's completely normal to forget recent events— because we all do it — such as where the keys were placed last or the name of someone recently introduced. 

What Is Dementia? 

Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a single disease. Dementia is a broad term used for a specific set of conditions and diseases characterized by a decline in problem-solving, language, and — most notably — memory. Dementia can also negatively impact an individual's ability to complete normal, everyday activities. There are several types of dementia. Some of the most popular forms of dementia include: 

  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. This progressive, irreversible brain disorder slowly deteriorates an individual's memory skills and thinking skills. It can eventually lead to the individual being unable to perform simple tasks.
  • Lewy Body Dementia can lead to problems with movement, mood, behavior, and thinking. Individuals with this condition often share similar symptoms as those with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
  • Frontotemporal dementia is a term used to describe multiple types of dementia that can impact the front and side parts of the brain — the areas responsible for moderating language and behavior.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) can cause double vision, loss of muscle coordination, and other physical symptoms. When the physical symptoms of Wernicke's disease end, the signs of Korsakoff syndrome will appear, which may include complications processing information, learning new skills, remembering things, and other dementia-like symptoms.
  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus can cause complications walking, short-term memory loss, confusion, changes in mood, forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, lack of interest in daily activities, incontinence, and other symptoms.
  • Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. The most common early signs are confusion and disorientation; while concentration problems or complications completing tasks can appear in the later stages.
  • Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that may affect movement, such as tremors in one hand.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a fatal degenerative brain disorder. Early symptoms may include visual disturbances, poor coordination, behavioral changes, and memory problems. Later symptoms include blindness, dementia, coma, weakness, and involuntary movements.
  • Huntington's disease can deteriorate a person's mental and physical abilities.
  • Post cortical atrophy (PCA) — also recognized as Benson's syndrome — typically impacts the rear portion of the brain that is responsible for spatial perception, spelling, complex visual processing, and calculation.

Dementia vs Normal Aging Process

The problem with determining whether it's dementia vs normal aging is that many types of dementia may mirror known aging effects. However, normal age-related declines are usually subtle and will primarily impact the speed of thinking and attentional control. With abnormal aging or dementia, declines are much more severe and can include complications with other thinking abilities, such as

  • Problems navigating,
  • Rapid forgetting,
  • Difficulty solving common problems,
  • Behaving outside of social norms,
  • Problems expressing oneself,
  • Excessing falls or tripping, and
  • Tremors.

Normal Aging vs Alzheimer's Disease Chart

The National Institute of Health's National Institute on Aging has published a comparison chart that highlights normal aging vs Alzheimer's disease. 

Alzheimer's Disease

Normal Aging

Making poor decisions and judgment most of the time

Making poor decisions from time to time

Failing to take care of monthly bills

Missing a monthly payment

Losing track of the time of year or date

Forgetting what day it is and then later remembering it

Problems having a conversation

Sometimes forgetting which word to use

When Should I Speak to My Doctor About Dementia vs Normal Aging? 

 If you are concerned about your or a loved one's health, it's imperative to speak to a doctor. Medical professionals specialize in diagnosing different types of dementia and should be your primary source of information and guidance. 

He or she may run different tests, suggest regular checkups, or refer to a specialist to further investigate what may be causing the symptoms. Some memory and thinking problems can have causes, such as an infection, depression, or side effects from medication. 

Contact the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center 

At the Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center, we help individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. We offer a range of hands-on solutions based on providing respite for caregivers and offering stimulating programs for those living with dementia. Contact the Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center by calling (516) 767-6856.

Proud to be a Transparent Nonprofit Participant of the GuideStar Network

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia (LIAD) Center, we value relevance, reliability, convenience, and above all, transparency. Unlike publicly traded companies, nonprofit organizations are not required to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which makes it essential for legitimate nonprofits to distinguish themselves by participating in programs like the GuideStar Seals of Transparency. 

At the LIAD Center, we're proud to participate in this widely recognized initiative and to have earned the GuideStar Silver Seal of Transparency. Let's take a closer look at the GuideStar Silver Seal of Transparency as well as what it means.

What Are GuideStar Seals of Transparency?

In the most simple sense, the GuideStar Seals of Transparency is a streamlined way for nonprofit organizations to demonstrate their commitment to transparency while conveying real stories. Our highly-coveted Silver Seal of Transparency acknowledges that we have made key information public under our GuideStar profile

By participating in the GuideStar program, it demonstrates our commitment to providing up-to-date information, which allows potential funders and donors to make an educated decision. It's important to understand that the Seal of Transparency isn't an endorsement or rating by GuideStar. 

Just as well, GuideStar doesn't evaluate nonprofits and isn't a watchdog. The overarching goal at GuideStar is to deliver unbiased information to help funders, donors, and key stakeholders make the most educated decision. 

What Is the GuideStar Silver Seal of Transparency? 

Anytime a nonprofit organization earns a Seal of Transparency, they have provided context for the IRS information already provided in the GuideStar profile. This additional context offers funders and possible donors superior insight into the work being done by the nonprofit. As the second available seal, the GuideStar Silver Seal of Transparency confirms we have provided:

  • Donation information
  • Organization mission and contact details
  • Leadership information
  • Brand details, such as social media, website, and logo
  • Program information

What Is Transparency for Nonprofits?

Transparency in the nonprofit space can be explained as the widespread availability of reliable, relevant information about the financial position, performance, and governance of the organization. For nonprofits, transparency is a critical trust-building tool. 

The more transparent the organization, the more trustworthy it will be viewed by regulators, donors, and the public. It's vital for nonprofit organizations to explicitly state their mission and communicate the outcomes of their initiatives to the world. 

How Can Nonprofit Transparency Be Increased

The majority of nonprofits increase transparency by making their IRS Form 990 available on their website. In addition to making these forms readily available, other ways nonprofits can increase transparency include:

  1. Regularly update the website with the latest and most current program info
  2. Post the names, bios, and titles of key staff members and board members. It's also a good practice to highlight each individual's contributions and skills. 
  3. Offer an annual report on the website that includes the services offered during the year and the achievements.  
  4. Post a copy of the IRS letter of determination on the website.
  5. Post a copy of any financial statements that have been audited.

Why Is Transparency Important for Nonprofits?

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was a sweeping piece of federal legislation that established financial regulations and auditing standards for publicly traded companies. Lawmakers established this legislation to protect employees, shareholders, and the public from accounting errors and fraudulent financial purchases. 

However, nonprofit organizations are not required to comply with this act. While voluntary for nonprofits, transparency is essential and can open the door to a host of benefits. Research published in the Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance demonstrates the importance of transparency to nonprofit organizations by suggesting that: 

  • Transparent organizations tend to be stronger and
  • Donors give more to transparent organizations.

Where Can Financial Information Be Accessed for the LIAD Center? 

At the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, we know that financial transparency is paramount to everything we do. And we offer the highest level of financial transparency to help preserve the instrumental trust each donor places in their contributions. For example, we make our financial statements available at any time

At the same time, by engaging in conduct that is transparent and accountable, we earn the trust of our volunteers, donors and staff, which creates a positive workplace and community culture that empowers us to go above and beyond for those we serve. 

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about what we do, feel free to reach out to the team at the Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center today. 

Staff Hand Deliver Holiday-Themed Packages

To celebrate the new Spring season, LIAD Center staff hand delivered holiday-themed packages to a few of our families! Each package was filled with goodies, games and more.

First they spread some Irish luck for St. Patrick's Day in March. Packages included green hand sanitizers, light up shamrock necklaces, coloring supplies, socks and other accessories. Later in April, in honor of Easter and Passover, and thanks to special support from Care Connections Home Care, staff delivered themed gifts with Easter egg stress balls, matzo, swirly themed straws, and a variety of candies.

Thank you to all the families that participated, and happy Spring to all!

Virtual Raffle Event Raises over $15,000!

Our Virtual Raffle Event on March 24, 2021 was a great success! We had over 150 donors, over 80 Zoom attendees, and raised more than $15,000. We are so appreciative of our community and all that helped to make the event amazing. Congratulations to all the winners!

"I am genuinely blown away by our community's support," said Danielle Schwartzberg, Director of Special Events and Community Outreach. "From donations, to social media outreach, sponsorships and so, so much more, this event had zero overhead and I am incredibly grateful to all that had a part in making that happen."

Thank you to our in-kind donors:

CoKEM International

Cona Elder Law

Village Monte’s Pizza

La Famiglia Restaurant

Catch the Wave

Plainview Town Bagel

Sweats Appeal

La Piazza

Nostro Postro Pizza

Dutchess Cookie

Main Event Sports Bar

Cirella’s Italian Restaurant

Iavarone Bros

Butera’s of Woodbury

Michell’s Clothing Store

LoveKess Clothing

Alter'd Home

London Jeweler

Mike Sharinn Photography

Salon Entourage & Jennifer Ann Cosmetics

The Mansion at Glen Cove

Just Robyn Designs

Girl’s Room of Woodbury

Jennifer Cona, Esq. of Cona Elder Law

The Eibeler Family

Penelope Wambolt

Jennifer Devine of Caring People

Lisa Vecchio Belinsky

Gregg Suchow

The Klarman Family

Eugenia Slubski

Thank you to our sponsors:

COVID-19 Vaccine at the LIAD Center

With the COVID-19 pandemic having affected over 30 million Americans, many pharmaceutical companies have rapidly developed vaccines to be administered to prevent the spread of the disease. Some, thankfully, already approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization.

On March 25, 2021, the LIAD Center proudly collaborated with Rite Aid Pharmacy to provide the hands-on support the community has always relied on us for. Staff, families and local community members safely gathered to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the facility.

“Partnering with Rite Aid Pharmacy to help vaccinate a vulnerable population has been an exciting honor,” said Lindsay Knudsen, LMSW, of the LIAD Center. “In addition to supporting our community in a safe and healthy step forward from these difficult times, it also felt incredible to reconnect with our staff and families. While the LIAD Center has continued its mission, supporting our community in person is so dearly missed and we are eager to resume in-person programming. The first step is to assure the upmost safety, and so it is our privilege to have a part in that by offering the COVID-19 vaccine at our facility.”

The LIAD Center is excited to feel a glimpse of hope during this unprecedent time. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go, so mask up and stay safe!

Special thank you to our event sponsor, Care Connections Home Care for their support.

How Can Caregivers Handle Dementia and Hallucinations

Hallucinations are a common symptom of dementia., It can be frightening for those who experience them and can be especially challenging for caregivers. However, at Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia (LIAD) Center, you are not alone. 

You have access to an entire team of support and resources to help you navigate the best path forward and provide your loved one with the care they deserve. Let's take a closer look at how caregivers can handle dementia and hallucinations. And don't hesitate to reach out to the team at the LIAD Center for personalized assistance.  

What Is a Hallucination?

A hallucination can involve your loved one smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, or feeling something that isn't there. Your loved one may see the face of a deceased loved one in the distance or see bugs crawling on their hand. In some instances, your loved one could hear an old friend talking and may even engage in a conversation with the imagined individual. 

Hallucinations are triggered by changes in the brain that typically happen during the later or middles stages of the dementia journey. Certain types of dementia are more commonly associated with hallucinations. For example, hallucinations are more common with Parkinson's dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies, but can also be experienced by those with Alzheimer's disease

Hallucination vs Delusion

Hallucinations are often confused with delusions. While both are common with dementia, hallucinations and delusions are distinctly different from one another. A delusion is a strongly held belief that fails to have any supporting evidence. Delusions are often caused by suspicious feelings and thoughts or paranoia.  For example, if your loved one with dementia believes someone is stealing their money or a loved one is having an affair, they may be having a delusion. 

Loved One Having Hallucinations? See the Doctor

First , if your loved one is experiencing hallucinations, it's important you communicate this to their physician. It's critical the medical professional conduct an evaluation and rule out other  potential causes and to determine whether medication is needed. For example, some caregivers believe their loved one is experiencing hallucinations, but it's actually vision problems. 

Because of this, it's always important to arrange a vision test with a dementia-friendly optician to rule out vision problems as the source. In addition, certain medications, a bladder infection, and kidney infections may cause confusion as well as hallucinations. For all of the reasons mentioned above, it's best to speak with your loved one's physician first. 

General Guidelines for Dealing with Dementia and Hallucinations

Seeing things that are not there can be unnerving and even frightening — even if what you're loved one is seeing isn't scary. As a result, it's important to reassure your loved one their hallucinations aren't unusual and may stop over time. You can also explain the visions may be controlled and there is nothing to be frightened of. 

However, you shouldn't argue with a loved one who insists what they're hearing or seeing is real. From their perspective, it is real...very real. And if you attempt to convince them otherwise, it can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, and other negative emotions. Here are a few general guidelines caregivers can use to soothe a loved one with dementia experiencing hallucinations. 

Confirm the Truth

You should always confirm your loved one's hallucination isn't real. For example, if they say someone is at the door, you should confirm no one is at the door. 

Give Them Kind Reassurance

If your loved one with dementia is experiencing hallucinations, you can offer them kind reassurance. For example, you can let them know you will check on them often. Or you can say something like "Don't worry. I am here to protect you." And if your loved one is in a care facility, inform their caregivers of their hallucinations and how it impacts them. 

Don't Minimize Their Experience

When your loved one is having a hallucination, avoid diminishing their experience. For example, you should avoid saying things such as "Don't be silly Mom..there's nothing there." This belittles their experience because what they are seeing is very real indeed. Instead, acknowledging how your loved one may be feeling during the hallucination is a much better and caring approach. 

Don't Act Like You See or Hear the Hallucination

It's usually best to avoid acting as if their hallucination is real. Affirming their hallucination as reality can make them feel more agitated and confused.

Leave Reasoning on the Bench

Avoid trying to reason with your loved one because it will not work. However, voicing your disbelief can make them more agitated and upset. 

Modify the Space

You can make relatively minor or subtle changes to the space in regards to your loved one's hallucinations. You can install nightlights, reduce shadows, rearrange furniture, and make other changes that your loved one may interpret as something else. Consider anything that may be triggering the hallucination.

Keep Routines

When your loved one's day follows a schedule and is predictable, you can help reduce the likelihood they stray from reality. As a result, it may be helpful to keep routines. Another tip is to keep a log of when the hallucinations occur and pay special attention to the circumstances surrounding the hallucinations. 

Utilize Distractions

Something as simple as a morning walk or soothing music can help defuse a hallucination. For instance, if your loved one is seeing objects or people, try sitting face-to-face with them and to make eye contact. If your loved one is able to see you during the hallucination, it can reduce the intensity of the experience.

Contact the Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center for Virtual Caregiver Support Groups & Additional Resources

At the LIAD Center, we offer virtual caregiver support groups specialized for the unique experiences and needs of spouses, loved ones, adult children, and the bereaved. Each support group is facilitated by an experienced, licensed social worker. In addition to hearing and sharing experiences from other caregivers, these groups can be integral in helping you to : 

  • Limit caregiver stress
  • Help avoid caregiver depression
  • Reduce caregiver isolation
  • Offer respite from your caregiving duties
  • Teach proven coping methods and strategies
  • Create a comfortable environment where ideas are shared
  • Connect you to community resources to help build your network of support

Contact the Long Island Alzheimer's & Dementia Center today by calling (516)767-6856 or completing a contact form.

Students Fundraise Art Supplies for LIAD Families

A group of students, connected through a leadership course at Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, NY, sought to start the new year on a giving foot. Supporting both local businesses and their community, they turned to the Long Island Alzheimer’s and Dementia (LIAD) Center to make a hands-on impact.

Within only two weeks, the ambitious group of students organized a fundraiser to provide diagnosed individuals the gift of art. From crayons and markers, to paint and yarn, their collection of donated items grew rapidly!

Art therapy, beyond supporting creativity, stimulates fine motor skills and exercises memory in many ways. The class's inspiration for this fundraiser stemmed from their classmate, Jenna Schanstra. “My grandma, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is very into art and drawing,” Jenna said, “so I thought it’d be sweet to give back stuff like that. [It] reminds me of her.”

“Our mission was to spread awareness and make an impact,” said Isabella Cespedes, Junior at Calhoun High School, “if you do something for someone else, it makes you feel good inside and can make a difference in someone’s life.”

Thanks to the generosity from the class and its fundraiser supporters, the LIAD Center can continue its mission to improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. 

Left to Right: John Schwab, T.J. Morash, Deven Kirpalani, Michael Bilardello, Isabella Buono, Alexa Stabile, Daniela Scheffler, Holly DiPalo, Rebecca Markoski, Isabella Cespedes, and pictured on the screen, Jenna Schanstra.