All is Bright? The Difference Between Healthy Aging or Signs of Memory Loss
We’ve all had memory lapses at one time or another. It is quite normal to have forgetful moments and not think much about it. It’s not until we begin to age, or our senior loved ones begin having more forgetful moments, that we step back and think about healthy aging or signs of memory loss.
As your senior loved one ages, you may start to wonder if you should be concerned about changes in their behavior. Learning about what is normal and what is not is the first step in supporting them. It is important to understand that as our loved one’s age, they will have some forgetfulness and changes in their behavior.
In the upcoming holiday season, most of us will catch up with our senior loved ones. Here’s how to know when their behavior becomes a warning sign, and if it’s likely attributed to healthy aging, or memory loss.
Part of the normal aging process includes occasional memory lapses, slower processing speeds, and having more difficulty multitasking. Many of our thinking abilities peak around our 30’s and slowly decline after that. There is very little cause for concern if this sounds similar to your senior loved one’s behavior.
It would be quite normal for them to do the following:
- Occasionally misplace their keys or glasses
- Forget someone’s name
- Call their grandchild by their child’s name
- Forget the time of an appointment
- Walk into a room and forget what they needed
- Have moments where something is on the tip of their tongue
Not only do older adults have these types of moments, but people of all ages do. One main difference between a healthy aging brain vs memory loss caused by dementia, is that normal aging does not interfere with one’s daily life.
Reversible Causes of Memory Loss
While memory loss can be normal or severe and point to cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s, there are other explanations for it as well.
It is important to discuss concerns with your senior loved one and find out what is going on in their life before jumping to conclusions. During the holiday season, they may be going through a period of stress and depression, which takes its toll on the brain and memory.
There are other reasons why your loved one may be showing signs of memory loss that are related to their lifestyle. This can include alcohol abuse, dehydration, and not enough sleep.
You should also find out what type of medication they are taking. Some medications list memory loss and cognition problems as a side effect. Even something as simple as a lack of vitamin B12 can interfere with brain functioning.
All of these causes are reversible if your senior loved one can receive help from you and their doctor.
Abnormal Aging and Memory Loss
While it is normal for the brain to undergo some mild cognitive changes, these changes should not make your senior loved one’s life more difficult.
If they experience disruptions in language, memory, attention, recognition, problem-solving, and decision making, you may want to pay closer attention to their symptoms.
Symptoms that may indicate dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Difficulty performing tasks (paying bills, balancing a checkbook)
- Forgetting how to do things they’ve always done (cooking, laundry)
- Getting lost or disoriented in familiar places
- Frequently forgetting words or using them incorrectly
- Repeating phrases and questions in the same conversation
- Trouble making choices
- Behaving in socially inappropriate ways
- Changes in diet and hygiene
- Changes in personality (apathy and depression)
Risk factors for Cognitive Decline
There are many risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Around 50% of those who have been diagnosed with abnormal memory loss have had at least one of the following risk factors:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Midlife obesity
- Little or no mental activity
- Little or no physical exercise
If your senior loved one has one of more of these, as well as signs of abnormal memory loss, they may be at higher risk of having dementia.
Improving Brain Health
There are many ways that you can help your senior loved one to improve their brain health and lifestyle. Mental exercises help your brain work effectively, just as a physical activity makes your body stronger.
The holidays can be a great time to help your senior loved one work on their brain health. While visiting or chatting, suggest games such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, word search puzzles, chess, and scrabble. You can even play some of these games and card games with your loved one through a video call service such as Zoom.
The holiday season is a great time to listen to sing, and play music. If your senior loved one enjoys singing or playing an instrument, you could ask them to sing a carol or play their instrument for you.
Maybe your senior loved one has always enjoyed cooking or baking. You could take advantage of this and send them new recipes to try. Following new recipes or remembering old favorites puts the brain to work. They will need to use their cognitive skills to follow the recipe and remember measurements, times, and directions.
Does your Loved One Need More Care?
While improving brain health could help, it is possible that your senior loved one’s brain health has already been declining for quite some time. If this is the case and they need extra memory care, The Kensington Falls Church is here for you and your loved one.
Our staff and caring nurses are available onsite 24/7 to care for our residents, which we consider family. We know how important it is for your loved one to receive the best treatment, which is why we look at our residents individually and determine what they need to live their most fulfilling life.
If you have any questions regarding our community and services, we would love for you to reach out to us.