If an elderly friend or relative occasionally forgets someone’s name or perhaps a doctors’ appointment, or needs some extra assistance figuring out how to use technology from time to time, it may be age-related memory loss, a natural occurrence as we get older. This type of memory loss does not interfere with our ability to take care of ourselves or manage daily tasks. It doesn’t hinder our ability to live independently.
Normal symptoms of age-related memory loss may include:
- Sometimes having difficulty finding the right words
- Being “set in our ways” and getting frustrated when things aren’t being done the way we like it
- Getting distracted and forgetting what was just said or what we were reading about
Dementia, on the other hand, is a condition caused by any number of diseases of the brain that impact memory loss and affect social functioning. Dementia sometimes begins with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which may include:
- Inappropriate behavior
- Repeated falling episodes
- Changes in personality
- Changes in personal hygiene
- Inability to comprehend what’s being said
While MCI is sometimes a precursor to dementia, having it does not necessarily mean you will have dementia.
If you have any concerns about your own memory loss, or that of a friend or loved one, get in touch with your doctor. A good place to start is with a physical exam and review of your medical history. Your doctor may also recommend cognitive and other testing to determine whether treatment is needed—or whether you are simply aging normally with some forgivable lapses in memory.