When to Worry About Your Memory

Is it mild forgetfulness, or a more serious memory problem? The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center offers information for seniors and family caregivers.

Many seniors worry that episodes of forgetfulness might be a sign of Alzheimer's disease or other memory disorder. It is true that some of us get more forgetful as we age. It may take longer to learn new things, remember familiar names and words, or find our glasses. These are usually signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems.

If you're worried about your forgetfulness, see your doctor. You also can do many things to help keep your memory sharp. Finding a hobby, spending time with friends, eating well, and exercising may help you stay alert and clear-headed.

Here are some ways to help your memory:

  • Learn a new skill.
  • Volunteer in your community, school, or faith community.
  • Spend time with friends and family whenever possible.
  • Use memory tools such as big calendars, to-do lists, and notes to yourself.
  • Put your wallet or purse, keys, and glasses in the same place each day.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Exercise and eat well.
  • Don't drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Get help if you feel depressed for weeks at a time.

What is a Serious Memory Problem?

Serious memory problems affect your ability to carry out everyday life activities such as driving a car, shopping, or handling money. Signs of serious memory problems may include:

  • Getting lost in a place you know well.
  • Asking the same questions over and over again.
  • Not being able to follow directions.
  • Getting very confused about time, people, and places.
  • Not taking care of yourself—eating poorly, not bathing, or being unsafe.

What to do About Serious Memory Problems

If you are having any of the problems listed above, see your doctor. It's important to find out what might be causing a serious memory problem. Your treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Not all memory problems are caused by Alzheimer's disease. The side effects of medications, depression, dehydration and other treatable conditions may be the root of the problem. Even if the diagnosis is Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, beginning treatment right away can make the most of a person’s memory abilities and even slow the progress of the disease.

For More Information

The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center offers extensive information, free booklets and support for seniors and family caregivers.

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge; copyright 2012, IlluminAge.