Is It Forgetfulness – Or Something Else?

Thoughtful confused mature business woman concerned thinking about online problem looking at laptop, frustrated worried senior middle aged female reading bad email news, suffering from memory loss

You totally spaced the name of your nephew. You missed paying that bill last month. You can’t remember how to add a photo to your Facebook post. Your forgetfulness is happening more often. Is that normal – or should you be concerned?

Many people worry that forgetting things is the first stage of some form of dementia. To recognize World Alzheimer’s Month, let’s examine the differences between normal aging processes and the onset of dementia.

As we get older our bodies change, including our brains. Forgetfulness can be a reflection of those changes. It can take longer to learn new things; it becomes harder to remember some information; losing things, like glasses, happens. “I call it healthy brain aging,” Dr. Lynne Shinto at Oregon Health & Science University, says. “Maybe you write reminders to yourself. Maybe you forget your glasses or a word every now and then. It happens to all of us as we age.” Normal forgetfulness doesn’t interfere with day-to-day activities.

But serious memory problems do.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s, will make it hard to do those routine, everyday activities like driving, making a phone call, or finding your way home. Here are some potential symptoms highlighted by the National Institute of Aging that could indicate cognitive issues:

  • Asking the same questions over and over
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Trouble following recipes or directions
  • Becoming confused about time, people, and places
  • Ignoring self-care; for example, eating poorly, not bathing, or behaving unsafely

You can visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Signs webpage to learn additional signs and compare them to what a typical age-related change would look like.

If these symptoms are present – or even if you are unsure – it’s time to seek a professional examination with your doctor. It’s important to remember that forgetfulness can also be a symptom of other issues, like depression, medication side effects, too few vitamins, and medical conditions such as a tumor, blot clot, or liver disorder.

We will be forgetful on occasion as we age; that’s totally OK! But continual decline which interrupts your quality of life is not normal, and you deserve to learn if it is something else.