As you journey through life, some changes can occur with the passing of time. One concern that often arises as we grow older is memory loss. It’s common to find yourself misplacing keys, struggling to recall names, or forgetting minor details.
This raises the question of whether memory loss is a normal part of aging. Some cognitive changes are natural with age, while others can be concerning. Significant memory loss that interferes with daily life is not a normal part of aging. When family members know the difference, it can help them determine if a loved one requires personalized support, such as memory care in a senior living community.
Understanding Normal Age-Related Memory Changes
Age-related memory changes result from changes in the body and the brain as people age. While you may experience slower processing speeds or trouble multitasking, routine memory can be stable despite occasional forgetfulness.
It’s important to distinguish between mild forgetfulness and significant memory impairment. Examples of occasional memory lapses can include:
- Losing things
- Not remembering where you put your glasses
- Missing a monthly payment
These minor memory hiccups are common in older adults. They do not necessarily indicate a serious problem and are usually nothing to worry about.
Slower Processing Speed
As we age, it’s common for our cognitive processing speed to slow down. You might find it takes a little longer to recall information or connect the dots between different pieces of information. A slower processing speed can sometimes lead to momentary memory lapses or difficulties with multitasking.
Difficulty with Names & Words
It can be common to struggle to recall someone’s name or a specific word—the “tip-of-the-tongue” phenomenon can be more common as we age. While it’s frustrating, it’s often a harmless memory blip.
With time and patience, the word or name usually comes to mind later. In the meantime, you can take the opportunity to exercise your brain by engaging in word puzzles or brain teasers.
When to Seek Professional Help
6.2 million Americans 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. While age-related memory changes are common, there are instances where memory loss may indicate something more serious.
Knowing and understanding the early warning signs of dementia can signal that it’s time for professional help. Through early detection and treatment, 40% of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed.
Significant Memory Loss
If memory loss interferes with daily life and hinders one’s ability to perform routine tasks, seek medical advice. Significant memory loss can look like the following:
- Forgetting important events and dates
- Forgetting recently learned information
- Asking the same question or the same information over and over again
- Struggling to navigate familiar places
- Not recalling the names of loved ones
- Relying on memory aides or family members for things you used to handle yourself
Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
Memory loss in some older adults can affect their ability to concentrate, develop and follow a plan, or work with numbers. Examples of these can include:
- Difficulty following a familiar recipe
- Keeping track of bills
- Taking longer to do things than they did before
Older adults with Alzheimer’s can become confused with time or place. They can lose track of time, dates, and seasons and may forget where they are or how they got there.
New Problems with Words
Memory loss can affect speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty with:
- Following or joining a conversation
- Stopping in the middle of a conversation and not knowing how to continue
- Repeating themselves
- Struggling with vocabulary, such as finding the correct word
Compared to age-related memory loss, people with Alzheimer’s disease tend to misplace things, put things in unusual places, and lose the ability to retrace their steps. Occasionally, they may even accuse others of stealing.
Caring for Your Memory
Adopting healthy behaviors and lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of cognitive decline and help prevent or delay dementia. Some positive changes might include:
- Staying engaged and mentally active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels
- Staying physically active
- Managing blood sugar
- Getting enough sleep
- Quitting smoking
Support & Comfort for Memory Loss
While memory loss can be a source of concern as we age, it’s important to understand that mild forgetfulness or occasional memory lapse is a normal part of aging. Significant or rapid decline in memory loss could indicate an underlying health issue, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Loved ones with memory loss are not alone in this journey. Fox Trail in Mahwah can provide individualized memory care and resources to support them every step of the way so they can enjoy a fulfilling life well into their golden years.