About 40% of people aged 65 or older experience some type of memory loss. Luckily, only about 1% of them will progress to dementia each year. Forgetfulness is simply a trait that accompanies aging. Misplacing keys or forgetting a name or phone number can be troubling. People with memory problems that do not have a mental disorder have “age-associated memory impairment,” an issue that is common as people grow older and is not considered a disease. Age-related memory changes, while frustrating, are not cause for concern. Dementia, however, is a mental disorder and is not a part of normal aging. The signs of dementia can seem similar to age-associated memory impairment. It is important to be able to tell the difference between general forgetfulness and dementia, especially if you or a loved one is having difficulty with memory loss.
Signs of General Aging Forgetfulness
Though the differences can be subtle, there are specific signs that can help you distinguish between general aging and dementia. Some of the signs of normal aging forgetfulness include:
- Forgetting details of a conversation or event that happened at least a year ago
- Forgetting the name of an acquaintance
- May need directions, but doesn’t get lost in familiar places
- Occasionally forgetting things and events
- Occasionally struggling to come up with certain words, but can hold a conversation
- Functions independently, despite occasional memory lapses
Signs of Dementia
For cases of dementia, people usually struggle to remember ordinary things that previously would have been easy to remember. Some occurrences that could indicate dementia include:
- Forgetting details of recent conversations or events
- Not recognizing or knowing the names of family members
- Gets lost or disoriented in familiar places; unable to follow directions
- Frequently forgetting things and events
- Words are forgotten or misused; repeats phrases in the same conversation
- Difficulty performing simple tasks such as paying bills, dressing, hygiene
What to Do If You Are Struggling with Your Memory
If you or a loved one is struggling with forgetfulness and you have any concerns that it could be dementia, visit your doctor. Though there is no cure for dementia, there are steps that you can take if the doctor determines that it is more than just normal aging forgetfulness. Some of the things you can do to help reduce occurrences of forgetfulness include:
- Keep a routine
- Keep a calendar or planner
- Always put items in the same place
- Repeat information such a name or a place when you learn it
- Make associations
- Use all of your senses to help remember
- Get a sufficient amount of sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Teach others things or tell them stories to reinforce information
You or your loved one can do many small things to improve memory. If you are struggling with these issues, do not immediately assume you are suffering from dementia. See a medical professional as soon as you can to figure out exactly what is happening.
We take our responsibility to provide competent, experienced in-home senior care seriously. Call us at (419) 754-1897 to schedule a free in-home assessment.
You are not alone. We are here to help.