The very idea of memory loss strikes fear into hearts and makes minds reel with the terrifying possibilities. But everyone has lapses in memory from time to time. Too often, seniors view these incidences of forgetfulness as more than slight memory blips, fearing the first signs of dementia, maybe even Alzheimer’s disease.
The truth is it’s a long way from an occasional memory lapse to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Misplacing the car keys or forgetting the name of someone who recently was introduced is perfectly normal and occasionally happens to everyone.
The time to be concerned is when memory loss interferes with normal, routine activities. If you get lost going to the grocery store, get confused balancing the checkbook or become baffled by how to make a favorite recipe, a call to your doctor is in order.
This is a very important step that should not be ignored. Too often seniors don’t reveal their memory problems or a spouse covers for the lapses, but this does more harm than good and could even be dangerous.
Fear is a powerful thing, but stay focused on the fact that memory loss is not necessarily Alzheimer’s. Dementia can be caused by depression, drug interaction, a vitamin B deficiency, dehydration or thyroid problems, among other things. These conditions are treatable, but early detection is the key.
While memory loss, regardless of the reason, is disruptive, there are ways to lessen the impact. Using “memory tools,” such as logging all appointments in a calendar, making to-do lists and keeping them handy, writing notes to yourself, and always putting your wallet or purse, keys and glasses in the exact same place every day.
Anyone who is concerned about changes in memory or normal function should consult a health care professional. The Alzheimer’s Association has a list of 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s at www.alz.org
The Alzheimer’s Association, Maine Chapter encourages people to call its free, 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900 with questions about risk factors, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Bangor is coming up on Saturday, Sept. 13. For information, visit www.alz.org/walk
Carol Higgins Taylor is as an advocate for seniors and owns a public relations firm in Bangor. She can be reached at email@example.com.