Are Those Memory Problems a Sign of Dementia?
Some conditions—such as high blood pressure and diabetes—can be detected only by your healthcare provider or a lab test. But when it comes to dementia, it’s often family members who notice the first warning signs.
Knowing the difference between forgetfulness and more serious memory problems can help you spot red flags in your relatives’ behavior.
Mind the warning signs
Just like the rest of your body, the brain changes with age. As a person gets older, parts of the brain may shrink or the communication between brain cells may not be as effective. These changes can contribute to minor forgetfulness, such as misplacing the car keys.
These normal lapses are different from dementia, which occurs when remaining brain cells are damaged by an injury or disease. Thinking and memory problems that aren’t a normal part of aging include:
Repeating things in the same conversation
Forgetting how to do regular tasks, such as how to tie shoes
Confusion around time or place
Trouble making choices or handling money
Withdrawing from work or social activities
Shifts in mood and personality
If you notice these changes or others that affect your loved one’s daily life, speak up.
Smart guide to getting help
The first step is talking with your loved one’s primary care provider. They may perform tests to determine the root cause of the problem. In some cases, such as when medications are to blame for a foggy memory, the fix may be as simple as changing a prescription.
Some types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, have no cure. However, treatment can slow their progress and make a person’s daily life easier. The earlier dementia is detected, the better treatments such as medicines and memory aids will work to preserve brain function.
If you care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, remember to take care of yourself, too. Eating right, exercising, and spending time with friends and family not only help you cope with stress, but can also reduce your own risk of developing dementia later on.