1022 North Union Street | Middletown, PA 17057

Distinguishing between dementia and normal age-related memory loss …

The email was puzzling: Would I be able to get the staff colleague the document she had requested?

Eh … what document? my mind immediately wondered.

Apologizing in both text and email, I asked for clarification. What had I promised to do?

We had discussed the item two weeks ago, came the reply.

Ugh! But I was still drawing a blank.

Fortunately, I can attribute this instance of memory-loss to the fact we get so many requests in my office that if I don’t write them down immediately, I’m typically on to whatever item is staring at me from my inbox and that other request is … well … gone.

We often find aging parents exhibiting similar behaviors and our immediate question typically is: Is this normal aging or something else?

Many older adults consider this question themselves over fear for the future. And the question is not easy to answer but, over time, answers usually become clear.

So, is it normal memory loss?

It’s common for forgetfulness and memory lapses to occur because of normal changes in the brain associated with aging.

The National Institutes of Health notes that this situation may make it harder to learn new things or retain information as easily as in the past. And, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, typical age-related changes may include making a bad decision once in a while, missing a monthly payment, forgetting what day or time it is but remembering it later, forgetting words or meanings of words and losing things from time to time.

These memory lapses can fluctuate as time goes on, but are perfectly normal.

But what they are the signs of cognitive illness?

Unfortunately, dementia causes more profound changes and signs of memory loss. Some common signs the Alzheimer’s Association shares include poor judgment and poor decision-making, inability to manage a budget or giving money to scammers, losing track of dates and times, difficulty having a conversation and misplacing items without being able to retrace steps to find them.

At the same time, the situation may not be memory loss of dementia.

It’s possible that medical conditions, stress, anxiety and depression can affect memory and cause memory problems. Medication side effects or not eating sufficient healthy foods also can create an issue, according to the institutes. If a loved one has recently begun taking a new medication or has a medical condition, you may wish to talk with the person’s doctor. Such symptoms can sometimes be treated or managed.
If you’re still concerned, speak with a physician. A doctor can help to evaluate your loved one as well as provide an accurate diagnosis. In addition, memory-support staff at Diakon senior living communities will be more than happy to talk with you and offer support and guidance.

William Swanger, MA, APR, Fellow PRSA
Senior Vice President for Communications, Diakon


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