When to Be Concerned About Memory Loss

Memory loss and lapses happen to all of us – it’s a natural occurrence due to the amount of information we accumulate and carry in our brains. However, once we or our loved ones reach a certain age, we start to wonder: is this normal memory loss? Or is it something more serious.  

“Worldwide, about 50 million people are living with dementia, and nearly 10 million new cases are diagnosed each year,” says Beth Anne Maas, SageLife’s Regional Director of Health and Wellness. Dementia is a catch-all word for a grouping of cognitive issues that cause deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and ability to perform everyday activities.

“Dementia and dementia-like issues are common among older individuals, especially as they age,” Beth says. “However, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. It is a disease for which we currently have no cure, but if it is diagnosed in the early stages, there are medications and treatments that can help improve quality of life and maintain cognitive function for as long as possible.”

This is why, Beth states, it’s important to understand what the normal signs of memory loss are, and when memory loss signifies something more serious. “Serious memory loss does not always mean dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,” Beth says. “There are other causes of memory loss such as medication interaction, infections or other underlying health issues. That’s another reason why any concerning memory loss should be looked into as soon as possible, because the cause could be something treatable.”

Do you know the ten early signs of dementia? We’ve listed them below, as well as what “normal,” age-related memory lapses can look like so you can better determine what the situation is for you or a loved one.

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

Concerning signs: Forgetting important dates or occasions (like a birthday or wedding anniversary), asking the same question over and over or repeating a phrase excessively, not remembering how to perform normal tasks, forgetting a conversation they just had.

Normal signs of aging: Forgetting an appointment or a date every once in a while, but remembering later.

2. Difficulty planning or problem-solving.

Concerning signs: Being unable to follow a much-used recipe, forgetting to pay bills, not being able to balance a checkbook, having difficulty concentrating.

Normal signs of aging: Forgetting to pay a bill occasionally (but then remembering to do so), making a mistake while going over figures.

3. Not remembering how to do familiar tasks.

Concerning signs: Not remembering how to get to the grocery store, how to play a favorite game or having a hard time operating the microwave or dishwasher.

Normal signs of aging: Needing occasional help to perform tasks they don’t do all the time, like a certain setting on the microwave or figuring out how to record a TV show.

4. Being confused about time and place.

Concerning signs: Not knowing what month or time of year it is, forgetting where you are or how you got to a certain place.

Normal sign of aging: Occasionally forgetting what day of the week it is.

5. Difficulties with vision and spatial awareness.

Concerning signs: Sudden and increased difficulty with balance, not being able to judge distance (which can result in increased car accidents and the like), having a hard time reading or distinguishing contrast.

Normal signs of aging: Worsening eyesight due to eye issues, or having balance problems due to injury or a health condition like arthritis.

6. Issues with language.

Concerning signs: Having difficulty following or holding a conversation, substituting similar-sounding words for familiar words, repeating the same phrase over and over, being unsure how to continue a conversation.

Normal signs of aging: Having a word on “the tip of your tongue,” and forgetting names or words occasionally.

7. Misplacing things.

Concerning signs: Not being able to retrace steps to find something you’ve misplaced, accusing others of stealing from you or hiding things from you, placing things in unusual places (like putting a purse in the stove).

Normal signs of aging: Forgetting where you’ve put your keys or glasses, but then being able to find them later.

8. Difficulties with judgement and decision making.

Concerning signs: Having difficulty grooming, making poor decisions with money, being overly trusting with people who don’t have your best interests in mind.

Normal sign of aging: Making a bad decision every once in a while.

9. Becoming isolated and withdrawn.

Concerning signs: Withdrawing from hobbies, activities and events that brought joy in the past.

Normal signs of aging: Sometimes not wanting to go someplace or fulfill a family obligation.

10. Personality or mood changes.

Concerning signs: Becoming suspicious, depressed, anxious, fearful, confused – even becoming violent or having another huge mood or personality shift from the norm.

Normal signs of aging: Getting irritated when plans change or a routine isn’t followed.

A Holistic Approach to Dementia Care

At Artisan at Hudson, we know that it’s important to consider the whole person when caring for those with dementia. “We spend so much time getting to know our residents, what they love, their passions and interests and what made them who they are today,” says Beth. “This is what we use to create our holistic approach to dementia care. Every resident receives a care plan tailored to their needs, interests, wishes and more. This truly individualized approach provides so many benefits to those with memory loss, no matter what stage of the journey they are in.”