Do you sometimes misplace your keys or eyeglasses? Forget someone’s name momentarily? Occasionally have to search for a word or phrase that is on the “tip of your tongue?”
As we age, slight changes in our intellect begin to occur. Simple forgetfulness, or “senior moments,” like forgetting where the car keys are or a delay in recalling names, dates or events are all a part of the aging process. We see a modest decline in spontaneous word finding (may take longer to get words out) and our ability to multi-task slows down. While our vocabulary remains unchanged, the speed of information processing gradually begins to slow down with age. Additionally, learning something new and being able to recall it takes longer as we grow older. Memory has various forms that may be affected differently by aging.
For instance, not being able to recall details of an event that happened last year is just normal aging. However, not being able to recall recent details of an event can indicate the beginning of some cognitive deficits. Forgetting things occasionally is pretty normal as we age, but forgetting things more frequently and not being able to recall more easily can be signs of dementia or Alzheimer's.
An older adult may worry about lack of recall and memory at times, but those around him or her are not worried. Whereas, individuals with memory issues are not aware of any problems at all, yet those around them are extremely worried about them.
Causes for concern would be someone who frequently misplaces keys, begins not to know the name of objects, forgets names and places without recall, has great difficulty using the right words, becomes lost in familiar surroundings. In other words, when memory loss prevents someone from performing daily tasks and accustomed roles in life, further evaluation should be undertaken by a physician.
More than 50 conditions can cause or mimic the symptoms of dementia, and symptoms usually subside when the underlying problem is treated, such as a thyroid condition or a B12 vitamin deficiency. Additionally, certain drugs can cause dementia-like signs. These include antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-Parkinson drugs, anti-anxiety medications, cardiovascular drugs, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, narcotics and sedatives.
Anyone who suspects severe memory deficits should discuss it with his or her physician and undergo a complete evaluation before coming to any conclusions. Though memory deficits occur in the normal aging process, it is important to keep the brain healthy and active by being socially engaged, remaining physically active, adopting a healthy diet and participating in games and activities that are mentally stimulating.
Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.