When It’s More Than Forgetfulness
You’re standing there talking to yourself, cooking dinner, or maybe doing the dishes. You’re alone, or maybe not alone – your significant other is in the other room. Or, maybe they’re out playing tennis or getting groceries or having drinks with friends (because let’s face it, seniors love to party!). The next thing you know you’re dazing off and forgot what it was that you were doing.
It was a senior moment, right? Or was it? Tiny lapses in memory could be signs of early age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Diseases of the brain usually go unnoticed for some time before the doctor gets involved. Typically, the individual covers up the evidence that there is any problem at all. A lot of times a spouse, family member, or loved one do the primary reporting on an individual’s cognitive state when they end up at the doctor.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, mental decline begins commonly in small increments with small episodes of forgetfulness. With that being said, don’t be scared if you miss one or two appointments or forget to a pay bill. Those instances are completely normal in the day-to day activities of a busy senior. Getting into a habit or set routine and being uncomfortable when those things are disrupted is totally normal. Forgetting where you placed your keys but having the ability to retrace steps to find them is perfectly normal as well. However, when we begin to forget words, places, the names of your children, or how to use common items in our kitchen, it may be time to contact the doctor for an Alzheimer’s screening.
Approximately 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s related disease. As the population continues to age, so will the rates of Alzheimer’s and age-related brain diseases. About 40% of dementia or Alzheimer’s cases go undetected until the later stages. Even those numbers are difficult to accurately calculate due to the limited availability of actual data gathered surrounding symptoms during initial diagnosis. Alzheimer’s is traditionally diagnosed over time. Most diagnosed cases are by way of documenting mental and cognitive decline from a physician’s perspective.
In the linear continuum of aging, we can say, the older you are the more risk you have for developing Alzheimer’s, dementia or an age-related brain disease. However, there are a number of genetic factors and testing involved surrounding those determinations. Bottom line, it’s okay to forget sometimes. We should be concerned when forgetfulness begins to impede in our daily routines. It’s important to know the signs as family members are the closet with the individual.
There are things that can be taken into consideration when monitoring loved ones. Taking mental note of when and how often the individual ‘slips’ up can lead to the development of interventions to help the individual through their episodes. Keeping track and involving the doctors can also help develop a timeline for the individual’s long-term treatment plan.
Forgetfulness is very common in the aging population. The time to take action is when mom or dad begins to show signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s as early as possible. According to the AARP these are the common signs to lookout for:
-Does the individual have problems with judgment or decision making?
-Are daily tasks turning into drawn out affairs?
-Is the person having issues making problem financial decisions?
-Are they forgetful of the date, time or year?
-Have they forgotten how to use a common item, or have trouble using new items?
Even though these things seem small, it would add up significantly in the daily life of a person with Alzheimer’s. There is no proven evidence that all of these things lead and/or are Alzheimer’s disease. However, family members and loved ones know the individual and their patterns first hand. It may be time to speak with their doctor should a loved one have any of these signs or symptoms.