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We all misplace things from time to time -- we wouldn't be human if we didn't. Forgetfulness often comes with age and is a side effect of busy, stress-filled lives.

Memory loss and aging don't always mean dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But, if accompanied by other symptoms, forgetfulness may signal a more serious problem such as mild cognitive impairment. Fortunately, there are a number of practical strategies you can use to counter forgetfulness and help you stop losing your stuff.

 

1. Create go-to storage for the important stuff

People often misplace important items like keys, wallets, and cell phones because they don't have a designated place to put them when they walk in the door, says Rashelle Isip, an organization and time management consultant, author and creator of “The Order Expert” blog. She advises using a basket, tray, box, or another type of container and placing it near your front door or entryway where you'll always see it when you're heading in or out the door.

 

2. Deal with mail right away

Misplaced mail can lead to unpaid bills and losing important documents. A good rule of thumb is to deal with your mail the minute you get home instead of letting it pile up or migrate to various places around your home. As Cheryl Eisen, president of luxury home staging company Interior Marketing Group, told Good Housekeeping for an article on de-cluttering, if you can't file it or frame it, toss it out.

 

3. Use one bag, briefcase or purse

Consolidating everything into one bag means you'll only have one carryall to keep track of, instead of several. You may even want to purchase an in-purse or bag organizer that allows you to move items from one carryall to another with ease, lessening the chance that you'll leave something behind.

 

4. List the items you regularly need

Create a short checklist of the items you'll need on a daily basis and refer to it at the end of the workday or when you're preparing to leave the house. You can even schedule a reminder into your cell phone or laptop. When the reminder pops up, take a moment to make sure you have everything on your checklist. Schedule these reminders throughout the day, whether you're at work, school, the gym, etc.

 

5. Train your brain

One way to help you remember items is to be aware of the things you lose the most often. Is it your keys? Your cell phone? The phone charger? Once you recognize the things you tend to misplace most, it should be easier to come up with ways to keep it from happening again. It may even help re-train your brain to visualizing yourself putting those items in the same place repeatedly over time.

 

When forgetfulness signals something else

While some forgetfulness and occasional memory loss can be a normal part of the aging process, it could also signify a bigger problem. Frequent forgetfulness could be a sign of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, a less-noticeable decline in mental ability that is often a precursor to dementia.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some 12 percent of people over 70 years old have MCI. And while most of those people are able to manage their day-to-day affairs independently and show no serious signs of impairment, they may also have trouble with memory, language, reasoning and judgment.

There are two types of MCI: amnestic, which significantly affects memory, and non-amnestic, which impacts cognitive functions other than memory. Possible signs of MCI include:

  • The person forgets appointments and routine events.
  • He or she increasingly repeats questions or stories.
  • He or she forgets to take medications.
  • Tasks such as cooking become too complicated.
 

MCI causes and treatment

Researchers have not settled on a definitive cause for MCI, but possible causes include a neurodegenerative disease, a vascular condition, depression or other psychiatric condition, or an injury that led to brain trauma. It's important to note that not everyone diagnosed with MCI develops dementia.

There are no treatments or medications for MCI approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, although there's some evidence that the drug Donepezil, also known as Aricept, can slow the progression of MCI in the short-term. Treatment for depression may also help patients deal with the symptoms of MCI.

If you or a loved one is showing signs of MCI or another memory problem, it’s best to seek medical attention early on. Consulting a doctor and getting the right treatment can help delay the progression of symptoms and improve quality of life.