Our body undergoes several changes as we age, and our brain is no different. Given this fact, some amount of cognitive difficulty and forgetfulness often arises as a person ages. However, there’s a difference between normal age-related memory loss and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Memory loss due to the process of aging doesn’t prevent an individual from living a full and productive life. For example, an elderly person may forget where they put their glasses or keys or may forget the name of a person they haven’t seen in a while. Often such changes in memory don’t disrupt daily functioning which includes their ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life.
When memory loss is a sign of dementia
Not all memory problems are a part of aging. Usually when an individual shows signs of dementia, other cognitive functions apart from memory are affected - learning, orientation, language, comprehension, planning, problem-solving and judgement. You may want to seek help if your parent is:
The existence of two or more of these signs could be an indication of a memory loss due to dementia.
What to do if the signs indicate dementia
is a progressive and degenerative brain disease affecting cognition especially memory. Early detection and prevention are effective in reducing the risk and delaying the onset of dementia by a few years. If you notice that the signs of forgetfulness in your aged parents indicate dementia, then consult a psychiatrist or neurologist to evaluate the situation.
Forgetfulness can also be caused due to diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, vitamin B deficiency and hypothyroidism. Research evidence shows that these conditions can also potentially increase the risk for dementia.
The risk for severe memory loss can either be prevented or reduced by:
Based on the inputs from Dr P T Sivakumar, professor, geriatric psychiatric unit, NIMHANS