There are over a 100 causes that can contribute to memory loss. At a recent program the participants shared concerns about loved ones who were becoming more forgetful. They did not know what to do because their concerns were usually not well received. Yet after my presentations several older adults usually shared their worries regarding the changes in their memory recently. Sometimes the fear is fueled by the fact that one or more family members had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
Fast forward 5 years and in some cases these minor complaints were actual red flags. Take the gentleman who was eventually diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus. After appropriate treatment, there were definitely less memory issues. Or the woman whose hearing was declining but she was in denial. Eventually she agreed to a hearing test, was an excellent candidate and now wears her hearing aides proudly. She had started to withdraw from most activities and phone conversations but now that has all changed. Her closest family members agree that she is a new person. Hearing has a huge impact on a person’s ability to recall information and treatment should be on the top of the list of priorities. Both cases support the fact that not all memory problems mean Alzheimer’s disease is likely.
As a speech-language pathologist providing therapy for homebound patients, I am seeing more patients who have memory deficits that impact not only their quality of life but overall safety. One of the challenges at this point is being able to find an interested and supportive friend or family member to assist with the planning and strategies to maximize recall and safety as well as communication. Sometimes this is a person who lives alone and needs someone to assist in the areas of major concern such as setting up medications, paying bills, driving, meal planning and cooking to name just a few.
If this person had spoken to their doctor about their concerns earlier, there might have been a complete physical and perhaps a geriatric assessment. One of the reversible causes like underactive thyroid or over the counter medications might have been identified. If a person’s doctor does not seem to address concerns to their satisfaction, I suggest contacting their local Alzheimer’s Association for resources in their area which might include a geriatric assessment resource or a physician specializing in working with older adults.
TO DO THIS WEEK:
If you are experiencing memory frustrations due to a busy lifestyle or ongoing stress, consider creating a 7 day memory fitness plan for several months and notice the changes or seek medical attention if the problem continues or gets worse. Learn more about hearing loss, strategies and resources if that is an area of concern. If you are concerned about your memory or that of a loved one, become more informed on some of the red flags and some of the proactive steps. Share with others some of these appropriate resources.
I like to encourage people to realize that any action is a good action if it’s proactive and there is positive intent behind it. Michael J. Fox