If you’ve ever walked into a room, only to forget why you’re there, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s natural at any age to occasionally forget a thing or two. However, as you get older, it can be easy to focus heavily on those lapses, wondering if they’re a sign of cognitive decline. But the occasional memory lapse is normal. In fact, 40 percent of those over the age of 65 will experience age-associated memory impairment, which means chances are, these moments of forgetfulness are no different from those you had when you were younger. Here are a few ways you can tell if your memory lapses are cause for concern.
Difficulty Recalling Past Events
The human brain is limited in its capacity to store memories. Although there is no fixed limit that applies to everyone, it is not typical to be able to remember every event that happens to you going all the way back to childhood.
If you are unable to recall your senior prom date or the name of your third-grade teacher, that’s no reason for alarm. However, if you tend to forget conversations that happened five minutes ago, or you routinely find yourself in locations with no memory of how you got there, it may be time to have a cognitive checkup or look into memory care.
Forgetting Names of Others
We’ve all run into a casual acquaintance at the post office or grocery store, only to find we can’t remember the person’s name. However, when you suddenly forget the name or identity of an immediate family member, it could be a sign of something that isn’t typical with an aging memory. A good indication that you may be suffering from age-related cognitive decline is whether or not the person’s name comes to you after a few minutes.
Missing Intermittent Deadlines
No matter what your age, occasionally a bill will slip through the cracks or you’ll forget about a doctor’s appointment. You may also misplace your keys or lose your car in a packed parking lot on occasion. These are not daily, routine tasks that have become secondhand to you. However, if you find that these memory slips are becoming increasingly common, instituting a calendar-based reminder system to make sure you stay on top of things could be a helpful tool. When missing or forgetting daily tasks becomes more commonplace, memory care could become necessary.
Trouble Performing Basic Tasks
There are some things we do every day that have become automatic. Making coffee, for instance, or tying our shoes. When you find yourself struggling to remember how to do those things, it could be a symptom of cognitive decline. Forgetting how to do things you’ve done throughout your life is not a normal part of aging.
If you do think you might be suffering age-related cognitive decline, it’s important to look at other things that might be causing it. Certain medications have memory loss listed as a side effect, and stress and alcohol use can cause memory impairment.
If you’ve suffered a recent head injury, you may also have trouble with recall. It’s important to seek medical assistance no matter what the cause, but if you can bring these possible causes to your provider’s attention, it can help you figure out what’s going on and whether you should be concerned about Alzheimer’s or dementia.