Many older adults are hesitant to visit a doctor about memory issues because they feel it just a normal part of aging. While some degree of memory loss is typical as we get older, memory failure that impacts daily living may be a symptom of the onset of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
The cognitive decline associated with dementia is often quite gradual, so it can be tough to recognize as it is happening. A lot times when memory lapses occur is just chalked up as a “senior moment”. Minor lapses like misplaced keys, or forgetting to pay a bill may seem insignificant, but they could be an indication of a larger, developing condition. Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains begin to deteriorate slowly as we age.
Age-Related Memory Loss
Mild memory impairment associated with aging, is associated with 3 main elements:
The hippocampus is the area of the brain associated with memory. This region of the brain actually shrinks as we get older, and so too does the frontal lobe which is involved with high level cognitive function.
Hormone production also tends to decrease with age, and in particular the hormones and proteins responsible for protecting, repairing, and stimulating new neurons, generally decline.
Blood flow often decreases with age as well, as you may have noticed many seniors experience chronic pain or coldness in feet and hands from lack of blood and oxygen.
Seniors that don’t get enough physical exercise may have more serious circulation problems that can result in reduced blood flow to the brain, leading to cognitive and memory impairment.
How do you know if memory problems are serious?
Nobody wants to believe that they are experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but if caught in the early stages it is much more manageable.
There are several memory issues that may indicate a more serious issue on the horizon, such as:
- Difficulties with planning or problem solving
- Trouble completely simple or routine tasks
- Feelings of confusion or disorientation
- Challenges with spatial acuity
- Speaking or language issues
- Frequently misplacing things
- Impaired judgement
- Social isolation
- Changes in mood or behavior
Why is it important not to ignore these memory issues?
There are many good reasons not to let any of the memory concerns mentioned above go unchecked.
Ruling Out Other Explanations
In some cases the memory troubles being experienced are the result of other factors or health conditions besides dementia.
Side effects from medications, sleep disorders, and unhealthy lifestyle choices can also have an impact on memory. It’s a good idea to visit a doctor or healthcare professional to get a more knowledgeable assessment.
Once you have a better idea what is causing the issue, appropriate steps can be taken to manage it.
Early Detection is Key
If the memory issues are a result of Alzheimer’s or dementia, then it is critical to begin treating it as soon as possible. There are a variety of treatments and lifestyle practices that can help slow the progression of the disease, which can improve quality of life for years to come.
Knowing what lies ahead can help relive stress and worry about the future. This helps to ensure an effective support system is in place to provide some peace of mind, and to tackle the problem with a practical approach.
Home caregivers can be of tremendous assistance for a variety of tasks and activities that can help manage the condition.
The situation can be easier to accept and deal with if caught at an early stage. This allows individuals and their families to learn more about the disease in general and the specifics of your particular case.
Knowing the cause of a problem is usually a big part of coming up with a viable solution.
The Longer the Waiting Period, the Worse the Outcome
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder, meaning it gets worse over time. The longer an individual waits for a diagnosis, the worse the symptoms are likely to be. Also, the disease becomes less manageable as time goes on, and if the wait period is too long it may be too late to find a workable treatment.
Begin the Healing
Although there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia, there are many things that can be done to maintain a level of independence and enjoyment in daily life.
In fact, many people that have been diagnosed with dementia report a new appreciation for life, and try to make the most of every day.