Forgetfulness: It’s Not Always What You Think

Understanding Dementia
Reasons for Memory Loss
Memory Loss in Association with Dementia
Coping with Memory Loss
Resources for Memory Loss

ForgetfulnessAt some point or another we have all experienced those panicked moments of forgetting something. Maybe you have locked your keys in the car, lost your cell phone, or spent the entire day trying to remember where you set something down. Memory lapse is natural to a certain extent and typically expected with aging. However, it is important to know when these pockets of forgetfulness go well beyond the realm of normal.

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a level of memory loss that hinders one’s ability to function normally throughout the day. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are the most prominent types of dementia related conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
  • Mixed dementia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Although each of the above conditions are quite different, they all share the same symptom – dementia. If you are experiencing intense signs of memory loss, it is important to consult a physician right away. Early detection is key when battling memory loss.

Reasons for Memory Loss

Before assuming that your memory loss is directly related to some form of dementia, it is important to understand other possible reasons for memory loss. Here are some things to consider when examining your memory loss.

  • Nutrition: Eating the proper nutrients not only helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle, but it also affects your brain in a positive way. When your body is not receiving the vitamins it needs to function, it can greatly hinder your ability to concentrate and remember. According to research from the Linus Pauling Institute, a Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to memory loss, disorientation and dementia.
  • History of Alcohol and Drugs:  If you have a history of heavy drinking and drug use, your brain has been compromised. Excessive drinking over long periods of time has been shown to actually shrink brain mass and impede cognitive functioning. Memory loss could simply be associated with a history of extreme alcohol and drug use.
  • High Stress:  If you have been battling through a high stress phase of life, it is possible that this can add to memory loss. When our minds are so deeply concerned with everything that is going on around us, it is not uncommon to be more forgetful than normal.
  • Lack of Sleep:  Often periods of high stress are accompanied by a great lack of sleep. When your body is consumed with exhaustion, it is very easy for things to slip between the cracks and forget things that you would normally remember.

Memory Loss in Association with Dementia

With so many outlying factors contributing to memory loss, you might be wonder when the problem becomes a more serious issue. Here are some red flags that you should be aware of when dealing with memory loss associated with dementia.

  • Is your daily life interrupted? If you find yourself forgetting so frequently that it interferes with your normal day, this is a red flag that something might be going on, and it is important that you visit your doctor right away.
  • Are words vanishing when you need them? If you notice yourself forgetting things that you would normally know, like your address, friend’s last name, favorite book, husband’s line of work etc. This could be a warning sign that your memory loss is becoming a point of concern.
  • Do you find yourself changing emotionally? If you are beginning to feel anxious, confused or fearful about your memory loss, this could be a sign that something is going happening. Take particular notice if your mood seems to change when confronted with deviations to your normal routine or schedule.
  • Are you at a loss in regards to time and place? If you have a hard time remembering where you are and when you got there, this is not only a frightening situation but a sign that you should seek out help regarding your memory loss.
  • Do you find it difficult to concentrate and remember what you did during the day? We all have misplaced an item from time to time, but if you can’t retrace your steps clearly and find it nearly impossible to remember what you did throughout the day, this is a strong indication that something out of the norm is going on.
  • Are simple tasks suddenly becoming complicated? If you find yourself forgetting how to prepare dinner, balance your checkbook, or any other everyday task that you used to do with great ease, this serves as a warning sign that should not be ignored.

If you or someone you loved is experiencing any of the above signs or seems to indicate a great change in memory function, it is best to consult a physician. Don’t simply wait to see if things improve, especially when early detection is very important with many dementia related conditions.

Coping with Memory Loss

If your memory loss diagnosis is outside the realm of normal, you might be feeling an array of different emotions. It is natural to feel scared, depressed, angry or overwhelmed. The good news is that there are many new treatment plans available and if the dementia is detected early, there is more time to plan for the future. Here are some ways you or someone you love can prepare for the changes that accompany a memory loss diagnosis:

  • Share With Others– You might feel intimidated or embarrassed about you diagnosis but having people around you who are supportive and aware will be a huge benefit. Take time to talk with your family, friends and coworkers about what is going on in your life. By being open, you are allowing other people to help you along this difficult journey. Sharing with others not only helps you prepare, but it also gives your family and friends time to adjust to what lies ahead.
  • Help Yourself– Finding out about your condition early, gives you more time to learn all you can about your memory loss. You can begin helping yourself by utilizing memory aids, staying strong, and living a healthier life. Join a support group or find a relaxing outlet that brings you joy. For each person, finding a source of strength can look different, but the important thing as that you do not isolate yourself.
  • Plan Ahead– Though your future might be heading a different direction than you planned, you can still take some steps now to prepare for what is ahead. Receiving a memory loss diagnosis is frightening but knowing provides you with more time to start seeking out the best care, latest treatments and financial support.

Resources for Memory Loss

The following list provides helpful information regarding memory loss and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Association
225 N. Michigan Ave., Fl. 17
Chicago, IL 60601-7633

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
322 8th Ave., 7th Fl.
New York, NY 10001

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Center
1506 Lake Highland Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

Alzheimer’s Society British Columbia
#300-828 West 8th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 1E2

Family Caregiver Alliance
785 Market Street
Suite 750
San Francisco, CA 94103

Written by writer Asha Grinnell

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