As we age, problems with memory lapses become more common. While everyone experiences temporary lapses in memory, not every memory lapse is an indication of a bigger problem. Here are some warning signs that may present legitimate cause for concern:
- Repeating the same story over and over
- The inability to follow instructions
- Confusion about time or dates
- Chronically forgetting things
- Asking the same question multiple times within a short amount of time
- Becoming lost in a familiar neighborhood or place
- Neglecting personal nutrition or hygiene
The following types of memory loss are common and aren’t usually an indication of bigger problems:
- The temporary inability to remember something familiar. Calling a child by their siblings name, for example, is not an indication of dementia.
- Forgetting a detail of an event like where something happened or what year it occurred in is a common problem for many people that does not signal a need for worry.
- The inability to recall events that happened a very long time ago is just a sign that your memory is operating normally. It’s easier to remember things that happened recently.
- Absent-mindedness is a simple result of not paying close attention to what’s going on. It’s common to go on “auto-pilot” and forget what you came into the room to get or miss a regular appointment.
Many conditions may cause memory problems in older adults. Understanding the warning signs and knowing when to seek help is important, as early diagnosis can help prevent irreversible problems. Not all memory problems are caused by aging or dementia. Certain vitamin deficiencies, alcohol abuse, excessive stress, medication side effects, blood clots in the brain, thyroid or liver disorders, and depression can all cause memory loss.
For some people, memory problems are warning signs for dementia. There are many kinds of dementia, both permanent and temporary. Your doctor can help you understand the difference, and a medical professional is the best source of information regarding any type of memory loss or memory lapse.
More information about memory loss is available at The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, The Alzheimer’s Association, and the National Institute on Aging.