Are You Concerned about Memory Loss?

By  0 Comments

I wear a fitness watch that shows me how many steps I acquire each day. I set some pretty lofty goals for myself, and usually reach those goals, but I attribute a great deal of my success to how many times I go up and down the stairs with the intention of getting something, then forgetting why I went into a particular room.

With my mid-50s in sight, I have begun to wonder if I should worry about such instances or simply chalk it up to having too much to do and too many things on my mind. We all have our moments of forgetfulness on occasion, but at what point should we worry about memory loss?

By the time we reach a certain age, usually in our 40s, we may begin to worry about glitches in our memory. While everyone’s memory is different, you have to use your own as a benchmark to notice any changes that should be of concern to you. Forgetfulness is a common complaint among older adults. Perhaps you have seen a movie recently but cannot recall the title or you momentarily cannot remember the name of a familiar street. While frustrating, these are not always cause for concern.

Age-related memory changes are not the same as dementia. As we age, it becomes more difficult to learn and recall information and we may frequently mistake the slowing of our mental process for actual memory loss. Our brains do not function as they used to, so it’s not uncommon to forget where you left your cell phone or occasionally forget an appointment. As long as these memory lapses do not prohibit you from participating in your daily life, you probably should not worry. However, if memory loss becomes so pervasive and severe it negatively affects your work, social life, hobbies and relationships, you should consider seeking a thorough medical evaluation to rule out issues such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or an underlying condition.

Some symptoms potentially indicating a serious memory loss requiring medical attention include the inability to perform simple tasks, such as dressing appropriately or paying bills; becoming lost or disoriented in familiar places; forgetting words or misusing them; demonstrating poor judgment or behaving in socially inappropriate ways. While it is normal as we age to sometimes forget someone’s name, it is not normal to forget the names of family and close friends and still not be able to recall those names after a period of time.

When should you worry? The following questions can serve as a checklist to help you determine if your perceived memory loss issues are a normal part of the aging process or if they may require medical attention.

Do your memory problems frighten you?
If you lose your keys and become momentarily frustrated, that is one thing. If you begin to feel uneasy or nervous and cannot recall where you parked your car, which is sitting in the driveway, or you are driving down the road to your destination and then suddenly cannot recall where you are going until you realize you are on the familiar road to work, this should be of concern.

Have memory problems altered your work or leisure activities?
Normal memory loss does not typically affect your day-to-day life, but those who are in the early stages of dementia, for example, may not be able to navigate their daily life as they have in the past, making familiar tasks not so familiar anymore. At the same time, they are aware of these shortcomings and as a result they begin to overcompensate, such as making detailed lists of things to do; asking others for help; avoiding a hobby or refusing to drive under certain conditions, such as at night or with others in the car.

Do others notice?
Do your family or friends point out any mistakes in your memory or express their concern? That may be a signal something is wrong. You may not even be aware of the symptoms you are exhibiting, such as telling the same story over and over or your inability to handle normal activities, such as work, paying bills, dressing or even cooking.

How is your decision-making process?
Have you always been decisive in life, able to make quick decisions, but now you wrestle with making even the smallest choice? Making choices relies on cognitive prowess, and when those abilities are compromised, you may not even be able to remember what you like to eat when choosing from a menu.

Aside from aging, certain medical conditions can contribute to memory problems, such as tumors, blood clots, head injuries, poor diet, thyroid issues, side effects from medication, stress, and chronic alcoholism, among others. These are issues that should be addressed as soon as possible by a doctor. ■

Sources:, and