Many senior citizens experience some form of memory loss. Still, there are differences between mild forgetfulness and more serious memory problems. And, it is important that senior citizens and those involved in their elder care address problems with memory, as it may be a sign of a more serious condition.
As we age, we lose some of the sharpness of memory we had when we were younger. We may notice that it takes longer to recall facts or information, learn new things, or find or identify familiar objects. In general, these are all signs of mild forgetfulness rather than a more serious medical problem. If you are becoming worried about your memory, schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out larger problems. Many activities can sharpen your mind and memory, such as picking up a new hobby, visiting friends, eating well, and exercising.
Some more tips for helping your memory are listed below:
- Learn a new skill.
- Volunteer in a local school, hospital, place of worship, or somewhere else in your community.
- Spend a lot of time with loved ones.
- Make use of memory tools such as large calendars, agendas, and notes to yourself.
- Make an effort to put your wallet, purse, keys, or glasses in the same place each time you set them down.
- Get ample rest.
- Exercise and eat a healthy diet.
- Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol.
- Seek help if you feel depressed for an extended period of time (more than two weeks).
You can also make use of the following:
- Large calendars
- Agendas for each day
- Notes about safety in the home
- Directions for using common items around the house
Serious Memory Problems
More serious memory problems disrupt your ability to carry on normal activities like driving, shopping, or handling money. Some signs of a serious memory problem include:
- Repeating the same questions over and over.
- Getting lost in a usually familiar place.
- Being unable to follow directions.
- Experiencing confusion about time, people, or places.
- Taking poor care of yourself (eating poorly, forgetting to bathe, or engaging in unsafe actions or activities).
Causes of Serious Memory Problems
Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions can lead to serious memory problems that should disappear after treatment. Some things that can cause memory problems are bad reactions to certain medications, depression, dehydration (insufficient amount of fluids in the body), poor diet (insufficient vitamins and minerals), minor head injuries, and thyroid problems. These are all serious medical conditions that should be handled by a physician.
Emotional problems. When senior citizens have certain emotional problems, serious memory problems may develop. Sadness, loneliness, worrying, or boredom can cause confusion and forgetfulness. An active lifestyle, visiting with loved ones, and learning new skills can be helpful, but it may be necessary to seek the help of a doctor or counselor for treatment. If this is the case, getting proper help should minimize memory problems.
Alzheimer’s disease. This disease also causes problems with memory. It begins slowly, but the symptoms get progressively worse as the brain changes. Although it may appear to be mild memory loss at first, people with Alzheimer’s get to a point at which it’s difficult to think clearly. Everyday activities like shopping, driving, cooking, and carrying on a conversation become complicatedTaking medication during the early or middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease can delay memory loss and can be of great help if you have trouble sleeping or are worried or depressed.
Multi-infarct dementia. This is another disease that causes memory problems, where symptoms often appear abruptly. Memory loss and confusion associated with this disease come about through small strokes or short periods of decreased blood flow to the brain. Preventing additional strokes can maintain or improve memory after a stroke, but having more strokes generally leads to more memory loss. To prevent strokes and multi-infarct dementia, maintaining a healthy blood pressure is key.
Diagnosing Serious Memory Problems
As with all health concerns, if you have cause to worry about your memory, you should see your doctor. Be prepared to have a complete checkup if your doctor thinks it is necessary. This checkup may include tests to check memory, problem solving, counting, and language skills, and your doctor may need to take a CAT scan of your brain. A CAT scan is helpful because it shows normal and problem areas in the brain and can help to identify a problem. When your doctor comes to a conclusion as to what is causing your memory problems and makes a diagnosis, ask which treatment options are best for you.
Friends and family members can provide support to help you cope with memory loss. They can help you exercise, visit friends, and continue daily routines and activities. They can also remind you of the time, your location, and what is going on around you.
If memory problems progress to the point that you have difficulty taking care of yourself, in home care for senior citizens can be helpful. Home health care aides can assist with personal care, meal preparation, and health management. And they provide services according to your need, from a few hours a week to 24-hours a day.
The Caring Space