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My aged parents keep forgetting things. Should I worry?

How you can understand if the memory loss is due to aging or dementia.

Our body undergoes several changes as we age, and our brain is no different. Given this fact, some amount of cognitive difficulty and forgetfulness often arises as a person ages. However, there’s a difference between normal age-related memory loss and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.Memory loss due to the process of aging doesn’t prevent an individual from living a full and productive life. For example, an elderly person may forget where they put their glasses or keys or may forget the name of a person they haven’t seen in a while. Often such changes in memory don’t disrupt daily functioning which includes their ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life.

When memory loss is a sign of dementia

Not all memory problems are a part of aging. Usually when an individual shows signs of dementia, other cognitive functions apart from memory are affected – learning, orientation, language, comprehension, planning, problem-solving and judgement. You may want to seek help if your parent is:

Frequently and increasingly forgetting things such as names, things and events

Having difficulty recalling recent events and incidents eg., forgetting what they had for breakfast that day.

Not able to recall familiar names or events completely. Eg.,. forgetting the name of a grandchild or remembering going to a relative’s house but can’t remember which relative they visited

Unable to recall names/places/events even after being provided with cues

Forgetting common words when speaking or greeting

Showing sudden changes in behavior and mood or exhibits increasing anxiety

Having difficulty in performing their daily activities due to forgetting

Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer or fridge

Having difficulty finding the way or gets lost while walking or driving in a familiar place

Becoming less able to navigate a place or follow directions

Having difficulty making decisions

The existence of two or more of these signs could be an indication of a memory loss due to dementia.

What to do if the signs indicate dementia

Dementia is a progressive and degenerative brain disease affecting cognition especially memory. If you notice that the signs of forgetfulness in your aged parents indicate dementia, then consult a psychiatrist or neurologist to evaluate the situation.

Forgetfulness can also be caused due to diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, vitamin B deficiency and hypothyroidism. Research evidence shows that these conditions can also potentially increase the risk for dementia.

The risk for severe memory loss can either be prevented or reduced by:

Based on the inputs from Dr P T Sivakumar, professor, geriatric psychiatric unit, NIMHANSs

This article was first created and published by White Swan Foundation , edited for The Live Love Laugh Foundation

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