Is your senior loved one starting to be … well … forgetful? Have they started misplacing items and been unable to find them? Are they starting to call you by someone else’s name, or struggling to recall the name of a new friend? Do they walk into a room and forget why they did so? We can shrug these off as senior moments or the sign of a busy brain, but sometimes memory loss can be the sign of a bigger problem.
“An occasional lapse in memory is normal and to be expected as we get older,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Think about your own life: there are more than likely times when there are words on the tip of your tongue, or when you call your child by the dog’s name. That’s why it can be hard to know the difference between normal forgetfulness and memory loss that should be concerning.”
Andrea says that if memory problems are interfering with your loved one’s daily routines or day-to-day-tasks, or if you’re noticing them getting worse over time, it’s important to schedule a visit with their doctor to see what’s going on. “Frequent forgetfulness isn’t a normal part of aging, and indicates something’s wrong with your loved one,” she says.
Here are some warning signs that your loved one may be experiencing less-than-normal memory loss for their age:
Clue 1: Their memory loss disrupts their daily life.
Memory loss is the most common and most talked-about symptom of dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. This can include forgetting important dates and events (like their wedding anniversary), repeating the same question over and over again or forgetting something they just did (like making dinner). A more subtle sign is relying more and more on memory aids and family members in order to accomplish normal tasks.
Clue 2: They’re having difficulty performing familiar tasks like balancing a checkbook.
Some individuals will suddenly begin to have problems in remembering how to solve problems or accomplish normal tasks, like making a favorite recipe or forgetting how to access their bank account. If your loved one is suddenly forgetting how to do something they’ve always known how to do, that’s a red flag.
Clue 3: They forget what day or time it is.
It’s possible you’ve experienced forgetting “when” it is (this is especially true if you’re wrapped up in something interesting, or if you’re on vacation). What’s uncommon, though, is forgetting what season it is or what month it is. People with serious memory loss can forget where they are in time, literally, and may be unable to know what day it is without looking at a physical calendar (and even then may have difficulty).
Clue 4: Losing or misplacing items and being unable to retrace their steps to find them again.
It’s easy to forget where you put your glasses or your car keys. What’s not normal is not knowing where to look for them, being completely unable to narrow down options of where they could be or starting to accuse other people of stealing or hiding items.
Clue 5: They can’t remember what to call familiar objects or forget common words.
Dementias like Alzheimer’s disease affect the brain in many ways, including the areas that deal with language. If your loved one is suddenly struggling with vocabulary, calling items by the wrong names (but something that could sound “close,” like “hand clock” for a watch) or literally forgetting they’re having a conversation while they’re having it, something is going on.
Clue 6: You’re worried about their memory loss – but they aren’t.
One of the biggest signs that something is wrong is if your loved one simply doesn’t see that they have a memory problem, or otherwise can’t tell that something is wrong. If you’re noticing that things are concerning, but your loved one believes everything’s fine, that’s a flashing red light that something needs to happen, quickly.
What Should You Do?
The very first step you and your loved one should take is to visit their primary physician to narrow down causes and determine what may be happening. While it’s very possible that the memory loss is due to a cognitive disease like dementia, there are many other reasons why your loved one might be experiencing memory loss.
“The thought of dementia is terrifying to so many people that they will hide signs of memory loss in the hope that it will get better or to keep others from noticing,” says Andrea. “This can end up backfiring, because there are causes of memory loss that can be reversed and cured – but your loved one won’t know unless you visit a doctor.”
Your loved one’s doctor will run some tests in the office and then, if necessary, refer your loved one to different specialists like a neurologist. They will also perform a physical and perform tests to rule out any alternate causes of the memory loss, such as:
- Medication interaction
- Infections (forgetfulness is a common side effect of UTIs in the elderly, especially for senior women)
- A nutritional deficit
- Untreated anxiety, grief or depression
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- A variety of physical disorders
Tips for Helping Your Loved One Maintain Brain Health
Even if your loved one is experiencing memory loss, there are things you can do to help them prevent further memory loss or improve their brain health.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean meats, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
- Get plenty of exercise and make sure there’s a mix of aerobic exercise as well as some strength and resistance training.
- Engage their mind with meaningful activities, puzzles and games or help them learn a new skill.
- Get a full night’s sleep for seniors, that’s seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Remain socially active, because memory loss can be a sign of depression, which is exacerbated by becoming socially withdrawn.
No one likes to think that their loved one’s memory loss could be the sign of something more serious. However, by staying alert, looking for warning signs and staying on top of their health, you and your loved one will be better able to navigate cognitive changes in a positive and beneficial way.
For more information about determining when memory loss may be problematic, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.
Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care
The Reutlinger Community’s mission is to provide high quality health care and social support services in a life-enhancing and stimulating environment with a commitment to Jewish values.
Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s renovated 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any senior’s needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.
Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.
At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.
For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.