As we age, it’s not uncommon to find yourself asking questions like “Where did I put that?” “What was I going to say?” and “What was I going to pick up at the store?” more frequently.
Although it can be frustrating, daily forgetfulness is rarely a cause for concern.
“Forgetting is a normal part of aging. Like all parts of the body, our brain ages and experiences weakened functionality,” explains Raffi Megerian, MD, geriatrician at Main Line HealthCare Geriatrics & Internal Medicine at Shannondell.
Forgetfulness or memory issues can also be caused by factors besides age, like medications, certain infections and cancers, or emotional distress.
But how can you tell when forgetfulness turns into something more serious? Memory loss is the primary symptom of dementia, a condition that affects an aging population at a growing rate. In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association predicted that 72 million baby boomers were at risk for the disease, which has no cure.
“When people first start to experience memory loss, or see their loved ones experiencing memory loss, they often jump to a worst-case scenario,” says Dr. Megerian. “But there are ways to distinguish between everyday forgetfulness and dementia.”
Alzheimer’s, and other dementia conditions, are typically marked by symptoms like:
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Being unable to follow simple instructions
- Confusing time, people, and places
- Neglecting physical health and hygiene
If you begin to notice symptoms like these, then it may be time for a consultation with a physician.
“Individuals who have dementia often have a difficult time recalling information that they just learned, or information that they are forced to recall on a regular basis,” explains Dr. Megerian. “When that becomes difficult, then it can be cause for concern.”
If you suspect you or your loved one is suffering from early dementia symptoms, make an appointment to talk to your physician about diagnosis and treatment options. Although there are currently no treatment options for dementia, there are options to help with the behavioral and cognitive symptoms of the disease.
Dr. Megerian practices in the community, including at Brandywine Senior Living at Upper Providence. If you're concerned about symptoms of forgetfulness and would like to schedule an appointment with a Dr. Megerian or another Main Line Health physician, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.