Everyone forgets and loses things. We all know someone who needs to buy a new wallet at least once a year, and “Where are my glasses?” may be the most-used phrase in the English language. How can you tell the difference between normal forgetfulness and memory loss that could be a sign of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia?
Many factors can contribute to loss of memory. Anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, a low B12 level, side effects from stroke and other neurological diseases like Parkinson’s may be to blame for the memory lapses you’ve noticed in your loved one. Here are some quick ways to tell the difference between age-related memory loss and possible dementia:
Does your loved one forget a word here and there? Does Dad misremember the name of the mechanic off-hand? That is probably age-related memory loss.
Is having a conversation difficult or impossible? Does Dad have difficulty communicating effectively no matter how much time you give him? This may be a sign of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
Has your loved one missed a bill payment recently? This is likely normal forgetfulness. Do not worry too much about one missed bill, especially if someone has recently lost a partner who did the household budgeting.
Are bills piling up at the door and utilities being shut off? This may be a sign of something more serious.
Does your loved one need to check for the date when she’s writing a cheque? That is likely normal age-related forgetfulness.
Does your loved one forget what season it is and get dressed for summer when it is winter? This could be a sign of Alzheimer’s or a different form of dementia.
Everyone makes mistakes. If your loved one recently saw a sale and bought way too many pairs of socks, that is likely age-related.
However, if your loved one repeatedly uses poor judgment in purchases bigger than socks, that may be a sign of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
How to Get Help
If something seems off, take your loved one to see their primary care physician. If memory loss is related to depression, anxiety or lack of sleep, easing those problems can help with memory issues.
If those problems are alleviated, yet forgetfulness persists, ask for a referral to see a neuropsychologist, geriatric psychiatrist or a neurologist who specializes in geriatrics.
Download this one-page guide to help you tell the difference between age-related forgetfulness and dementia, and bring it with you to your appointment. Above all, trust your instincts. If you feel something is off, it is worth checking out.