Forgetting to Remember
It is common to become more forgetful as we age. Occasionally missing a birthday, forgetting someone’s name, searching for a word, or misplacing your glasses are normal, age-related gaffs. Stressful situations, being tired and even hunger can make these lapses in memory seem worse than they actually are, especially if you are typically punctual and organized.
As we get older, we are also susceptible to certain diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. These diseases do not occur in the brain, but can cause memory loss. Additionally, things such as lack of sleep, thyroid disease, depression, medications and decreased hearing or vision may alter how we process and store information. It’s important to see your doctor if you believe your memory is becoming worse. Many of many of these situations can be controlled, which will aid in memory improvement or retention.
So, what are some of the major differences between forgetfulness and dementia? Today Morgan Lane Village would like to discuss a few things to watch for and when to seek medical help.
Brain Diseases and Dementia
Forgetfulness combined with confusion or bewilderment, mood swings, personality changes, and ongoing difficulty completing simple tasks may indicate dementia.
Brain diseases, such as Lewy Body Dementia, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, change the brain’s actual composition and how it functions. In the case of Alzheimer’s, proteins clump together in the brain, causing plaque formations that lead to severe cognitive disfunction. Unlike occasional forgetfulness, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not considered a normal part of aging.
Moderate Cognitive Impairment
Because these diseases tend to advance in their early stages, patients may be diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI. Individuals with MCI tend to be more forgetful and less able to solve problems than most other people their same age. If you or someone you love struggles with the things mentioned below, it may be time to visit a doctor.
- More forgetful than others of the same age
- Forget important appointments or events
- Can’t name everyday objects
There may be treatments and exercises available to improve memory and/or slow the progression of MCI. An assisted living community may provide the perfect solution for seniors dealing with the early stages of memory loss. They can get help with appointments, making meals, housecleaning, personal hygiene and other things. Daily structure and socializing with other residents will aid in retaining cognitive ability.
A person dealing with mild dementia may begin to withdraw socially. This may be to make up for an inability to recall recent events or things about their own history. They may become disoriented and find it difficult to recognize familiar faces in a crowd. At this stage, individuals typically recognize they are struggling, and will choose to disengage from public appearance to avoid embarrassment or anxiety. Some indicators of mild dementia may include:
- Can’t recall recent or current events
- Become disoriented
- Withdraw socially
At its moderate stage, dementia makes it difficult for a person to manage every day life on their own. They may not know what time of day it is, the month or even the season. While they will remember the names of their own family members, and recognize them, they may struggle to remember where they live, or details about their own children’s history. Some indicators of moderate dementia include:
- Cannot manage daily tasks
- Loses track of time, date or season
- Can’t remember personal history or that of family members
Moderate Severe Dementia
Moderate severe dementia may present itself through obsessive behaviors. Additionally, individuals may become anxious, aggressive or delusional. They can’t recognize loved ones, such as a spouse, child or dear friend. At this stage, living alone is not an option. Some indicators of moderate severe dementia may include:
- Obsessive behavior
- Anxious, aggressive
- Does not recognize loved ones
Severe dementia brings with it an inability to walk or speak. The individual will need constant care and help with virtually all daily tasks, including bathing, toileting, eating and more. Some indicators of severe dementia may include:
- Cannot walk unassisted
- Loses ability to speak
- Needs help with all areas of life
Early Diagnosis Improves the Chances of Successful Treatment
While not all lapses in memory indicate the onset of dementia, it is important to monitor changes in cognitive abilities as we age. Dietary and lifestyle changes, vitamin therapies or adjustments to medications may help treat non-dementia related memory loss. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia disorders will ensure that medical treatment has the best chance of delaying the advancement of the disease.
Need More Information on Forgetfulness vs. Dementia?
For more information on the differences between forgetfulness or dementia, visit the National Institute on Aging or Dementia.org. If you’d like to learn more about finding an assisted living community in South Dakota that can help you or a loved one live with age-related memory decline, please call Morgan Lane Village today!