What Are You Forgetting?

Five Frequently Asked Questions about Memory Loss

Losing keys, forgetting names, not knowing where you parked the car. . . the list goes on. Most of us have moments when we struggle to remember. It’s not unusual to worry, or to be concerned when you see a family member grappling with these issues, but a lot of things can make you forgetful. Stress and multi-tasking are major culprits. Research has also shown that sheer volume of information attained over a lifetime can be a factor, and nearly everyone’s memory slows a little with aging.

However, if problems are significant and seem to have begun suddenly, it could be a sign of something more serious. As with any health issue, you should speak with your doctor about changes, especially if you’ve noticed an increase in frequency or if they’ve begun to interfere with the ability to function in daily life. As a guide, Belmont Village Senior Living answers five frequently asked questions from seniors and their families.

Q: I keep misplacing and forgetting routine things – should I be worried?
A: What were you doing when you parked your car or put your keys down? If you were talking on the phone or otherwise engaged, that interference prevented you from storing the memory. Focus on being in the moment – ignoring distractions will help you form and retain memories. Indicators of a more serious issue include trouble re-tracing steps, finding things in unusual places – keys in the freezer, for example – or trouble recognizing familiar surroundings.

Q: Why can’t I remember names anymore?
A: If you can’t recall someone you just met, you probably were not paying focused attention when you heard their name. As we get older, we need to use more mnemonics to remember – say the name and think of an image when introduced that will help you recall the name, e.g., Debbie/debit card. Don’t worry unless you or your loved one has trouble recognizing familiar people that you see regularly.
Q: What does it mean when I can’t think of the word I want to use or I accidently use the wrong word?
A: There could be a simple explanation, such as distraction or a competing memory – one thing reminds you of another and you misspeak. However, if this is a consistent problem it could be a sign of a more significant level of loss and should be checked out.

Q: My loved one has started repeating himself – asking the same question over and over – what is going on?
A: This is a more profound level of memory loss. Likely this person is also forgetting appointments, not paying bills, relying more on others to handle things he normally would have taken care of himself, and forgetting or refusing to perform basic activities like cooking, laundry and grooming. An assessment by a medical professional is necessary.

Q: I think we have a problem. What should we do?
A: First, don’t give up hope. Discuss concerns frankly with your physician or a specialist. It’s normal to want to dismiss the early signs, but if lapses are consistent enough to cause concern it’s best to get help. There may be an underlying cause that’s correctable. Though there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss, diet, exercise, regular mental fitness work-outs and social interaction can all make a difference in helping to boost function. With the right support, it is possible to continue to lead an engaged, purposeful life.

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