Most people expect their aging parents to have some memory slips as they get older. They expect “senior moments” where the older adult forgets where they’ve put their glasses only to find them sitting on the top of their head. Or, being unable to recall a word, but having it “on the tip of their tongue.” Noticing these memory problems might make you wonder if they are normal or if there’s a bigger problem, like dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Experts say that memory occurs in three stages:
- Encoding: This stage occurs when a person encounters new information. It’s the discovery phase.
- Consolidation: After taking information in, the brain processes the information and stores it.
- Retrieval: This is the recall phase when a person remembers something they learned.
When someone has trouble with the retrieval phase, they forget a piece of information. That’s when you might start to worry about your parent. The problem is that when you notice these memory lapses, you may become attuned to them and pay them more attention than necessary. This can make you worry even when your parent’s memory loss is normal.
Age-Related Memory Loss vs. Dementia
It can be hard to tell if your parent’s memory loss is simply age-related or if there’s cause to worry. The National Institute on Aging offers the following tips for recognizing what is normal and what is not:
- Normal: Occasionally using poor judgement and making a bad decision.
- Dementia: Frequently making bad decisions.
- Normal: Forgetting to make a monthly payment.
- Dementia: Regularly having difficulty handling monthly finances.
- Normal: Temporarily forgetting what day it is but remembering later.
- Dementia: Being unable to tell others what the date is or what year it is.
- Normal: Occasionally forgetting a word.
- Dementia: Having difficulty holding a conversation.
- Normal: Sometimes losing items.
- Dementia: Frequently losing things and being unable to locate them.
If you notice memory loss in your parent and it worries you, encourage them to see a doctor. The doctor can conduct tests to determine the extent of the memory problem and whether it could be dementia.
When an older adult is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, senior care can help them to stay safe at home and continue to live as independently as possible. Senior care providers can monitor your parent to make certain they don’t make a decision that could harm them. A senior care provider can also assist the older adult to pay their bills, make healthy meals, and take care of their home. Senior care providers can also help them with things they forget, such as reminding them to take medications or of an upcoming appointment.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED-ONE ARE CONSIDERING SENIOR CARE IN CLAYTON, NC, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT SENIORS HELPING SENIORS TODAY. CALL (919) 761-5346.
Kathy is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) who is active in several other senior related organizations, including Alzheimer’s State Champion program, Friends of the Northern Wake Senior Center board member, Ambassador for the Rolesville Chamber of Commerce, Aging Life Care Association (ALCA), Health Affairs Round Table (HART), and Senior Information Networking Group (SING).