Have you ever heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Many seniors start worrying that they are losing memory and cognitive thinking skills as they age, and many of them think it just comes with growing older. To some degree, that can be true, but how do you know the difference between normal memory loss from aging and a cognitive decline such as dementia? Read on….
How Do You Know What’s Normal?
There are differences between forgetfulness that comes with aging and a more serious memory problem. The biggest difference is if there is a struggle to do normal tasks. Everyone is forgetful at times, but if it hampers your ability to think clearly, you should talk to a doctor about it. Here are some other points that might help you pinpoint the difference:
• If driving becomes frightening for fear of getting lost
• Being in familiar places and not remembering where you are or how to get home.
• Inability to remember and follow directions
• Confusion about the date, time, or relevant people or events.
Mild Cognitive Decline
Many older adults do develop mild memory or cognitive impairment that can be treated. They don’t usually have any major problems doing normal tasks or caring for themselves. While mild memory impairment may be an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s, this is not always the case.
Signs of a more serious memory impairment might include:
• Always losing things.
• Inability to remember appointments, events, or normally scheduled tasks.
• Searching for vocabulary words to express what they are feeling.
• Frustration trying to communicate effectively
• Not remembering the names of loved ones, or which name goes with which face.
If your loved one is struggling with this type of memory decline, it’s important to see a doctor at least twice a year to monitor the progression. While there are no medications that are effective for mild memory loss, there are things you can do to help manage it well.
The loss of cognitive function that affects every part of daily life is called dementia. Dementia starts with memory loss and can progress to the point that the individual is no longer safe to live on their own. Reasoning skills, remembering people, places, and names, and the ability to problem-solve are very impacted by dementia.
While memory loss is the most obvious sign of onset dementia, there are other things to look for as well, such as a short attention span, inability to communicate effectively and clearly, looking for words all the time, and even visual perception. Alzheimer’s is the most common and most severe form of severe dementia and normally happens in older adults over the age of 65.
When to Visit the Doctor
It’s important to talk to a doctor if memory problems are concerning you. Dementia is not the only thing that causes memory loss. It can also come from certain infections, medications, substance abuse, and even depression. Only a doctor can help determine the cause and how to treat it. If it is a neurological disorder such as Alzheimer’s, your doctor can help manage the symptoms and get the best care possible.
Be sure to ask a physician before you attempt to use supplements or other products that claim to help memory loss.
For more information on managing memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s, please contact us today.
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