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How to Know When it’s Memory Loss and Not Forgetfulness

Elderly man reading a piece of paper on wall
By Claudette Forbes

There are many older adults who worry that one day their memory won’t quite be what it used to be. You may have a loved one who laughingly refers to their lapse in memory as “oldtimers” or something similar, but there is a lot of worry that comes with that. For example, you may worry that it will take longer to learn something new, or forget to pay a newer bill, but if these changes occur it is usually simple forgetfulness – which is a normal part of aging – not memory loss.

What Is The Difference Between Forgetfulness and Memory Loss?

Do you know the difference between forgetfulness and memory loss, or how you would recognize the signs? There are young healthy teenagers who will walk into a room and forget what they were in there to do. It is completely normal to forget things once in a while as we get older, but significant memory problems can make it difficult to do everyday things like remembering how to get home, how to use the phone, drive, and more.

The best way to ease your mind, whether you are worried about yourself or a loved one, is to speak with a doctor. A physician will be able to help you determine whether you are dealing with cognitive problems, like thinking clearly and being able to learn, and how severe they may be, as well as what may be causing them.

Signs You Should Seek the Advice of a Doctor:

(According to National Institute on Aging)

  • Forgetting meals, baths, or behaving in a manner that is unsafe
  • Becoming confused about places, recognizing people, or losing time
  • Getting lost in a place or environment that a person knows very well
  • Being unable to follow recipes or a list of directions
  • Asking a line of questions many times over

Things That Help Sharpen Memory:

(According to the Alzheimer’s Association)

  • If you are depressed for any length of time, seek help
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Ensure that your blood pressure is accurately monitored and under control
  • Exercise and get outside, eat a well-balanced diet
  • Make sure that you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Stay active and involved with the community, with friends and family
  • Keep your phone, keys, wallet or purse in the same place every day
  • Follow a daily routine and use memory tools such as calendar, appointments, notes, and timers
  • Keep learning, reading, taking classes, or practicing new hobbies

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment or MCI is a condition that includes more memory issues than other people the same age, but these individuals can usually take care of themselves with the use of memory tools and some help. MCI is often seen as an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, however, not everyone that has MCI will develop Alzheimer’s. If you are diagnosed with MCI, your doctor may ask you to come back and visit more often than normal to track changes in memory over time. Signs of MCI include forgetting words, important events or appointments, and losing things often.

What is Dementia?

Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a normal part of aging, it is a disease that includes the loss of cognitive functioning. This includes short term memory, thinking clearly, remembering events, learning new things, reasoning skills, and behavioral abilities. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia it may eventually seriously interfere with the quality of life that you experience. Memory loss is the most common sign associated with dementia; however it is not the only clue that something is wrong. Signs of dementia include issues with language skills, visual perception, paying attention, and even personality changes.

Noticing Changes

The difference between normal aging and dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is making a bad decision once in a while and recognizing it, versus making poor judgements very often. If your loved one misses a single payment it is probably okay, but if your loved one misses many bills each month then it might be time to see a doctor. There is a difference between forgetting which day it is and slipping into a different time of the year or losing the date completely for more than just a few minutes. Individuals who forget which words to use are likely to be aging gracefully, whereas when your loved one can’t hold a conversation, it could be a sign of something more serious.

The reality is that there comes a time where your parent’s needs may be more than you can handle and it becomes safer for them to be in an environment where you can simply enjoy being with them again, instead of having to constantly worry about the care they need. Don’t forget that Homewatch CareGivers of Woodbridge is here for you. It is always a privilege to provide our clients with compassionate and professional assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have more questions or keep browsing our website for more information.

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