Question: People tell me not to worry about it, but I do. You see, I am 65 years old and would say I am in good physical shape — maybe 10 pounds overweight — but I walk two miles a day and, physically, I feel fine. It’s my mental well-being that concerns me. I worry about Alzheimer’s. My dear mother died from it in her 70s. I will find myself walking into the kitchen to get something, only to forget what I was after. I tell my friends about this, and they just laugh, saying it’s all part of being an old-timer. It makes me want to crown them, because I see no humor in this. — Roger, of Van Wert
It is not uncommon that we see this fear of Alzheimer’s in older adults, as they might experience more frequent instances of memory loss. Although this is normal part of aging, it is important to understand how it is different from symptoms of dementia and when it’s time to tell a doctor.
As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don’t remember information as well as they did or they lose things like their glasses.
Here are some differences and examples to understand what normal aging versus dementia looks like:
• Making a bad decision once in a while
• Missing a monthly payment
• Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later
• Sometimes forgetting which word to use
• Losing things from time to time
• Making poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time
• Problems taking care of monthly bills
• Losing track of the date or time of year
• Trouble having a conversation
• Misplacing things often and being unable to find them
Some other common causes of memory loss are: sleep deprivation, depression and stress, stroke, head trauma, some medications, nutritional deficiencies, underactive or overactive thyroid gland and infections such as HIV, tuberculosis and syphilis that affect the brain.
So if you are noticing consistent memory problems that begin to accumulate and are interfering with your day to day functioning, you can bring it up to your doctor to determine the cause and best treatment.
Dr. Rusheeth Thummalapally, Staff Psychiatrist at St. Rita’s Medical Center