What Causes Forgetfulness? Is it Always Alzheimer’s or Dementia?
Memory loss that is not “normal” is not always caused by Alzheimer’s or dementia. It can be caused by an undetected, seemingly unrelated medical problem. In many cases, treating the underlying medical problem can restore memory and return mental functioning back to normal. But if the cause of memory loss is Alzheimer’s or dementia, medicine cannot prevent or “cure” these disorders. However, some medications can help slow down memory loss if the patient is diagnosed in the early or middle stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
What is “Normal” Memory Loss?
- Forgetting people’s names occasionally;
- sometimes not being able to find the right word;
- taking longer to learn new things;
- sometimes forgetting where one has put things, like keys, for example;
- sometimes forgetting what one has come into a room to do.
What are the Symptoms of More Serious Memory Loss?
A more serious memory problem is one that affect’s a person’s ability to carry out everyday life activities such as driving a car, shopping or managing money. Some of the signs are:
- asking the same questions over and over;
- getting lost in familiar places;
- not being able to follow directions;
- confusion over time, people and places;
- forgetting to eat right and regularly;
- not bathing;
- poor judgment about safety;
- driving problems.
Does Memory Loss Automatically Mean Alzheimer’s or Dementia?
Memory problems do not always mean that Alzheimer’s or dementia are present. . There can be other underlying causes such as:
- medication side effects, (especially anticholinergic and allergy medicines);
- depression, anxiety, loneliness, (sometimes known as “pseudo-dementia”);
- Lyme disease;
- lack of vitamins, such as B12, and minerals in the body due to poor diet or poor absorption;
- head injuries – even minor ones;
- thyroid problems (especially hypothyroid, which causes depression, apathy and weight gain).
Memory should improve as these problems are treated.
How is the Cause of Memory Loss Determined?
Doctors can administer blood, urine, memory, language and other tests to assess the extent of the problem and possible cause. A CAT scan of the brain may be ordered.
Alzheimers is the #1 Cause of Memory Loss in the Elderly
With Alzheimer’s disease, the signs begin slowly and get worse over time. Some of the early signs are:
- simple forgetfulness;
- difficulty with understanding directions;
- asking the same questions.
It is important to know the complete warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Multi-Infarct Dementia Can Cause Sudden Memory Loss in the Elderly
Multi-infarct dementia is a frequent cause of sudden memory loss in the elderly. Small, even unnoticed strokes or changes in the blood supply to the brain are the cause.
In this case, it is necessary to treat high blood pressure to stop future strokes. This can stabilize the person’s condition and prevent further memory loss.
How to Prevent Memory Loss
Spending time with friends and engaging activities, eating well and exercising may help people retain their mental acuity, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Staying healthy and using stroke prevention techniques is also recommended.
Caring for a Family Member with Memory Loss
Caring for a family member with memory loss can be one of the most difficult jobs for a family caregiver. Convincing the person with early stage memory loss to see a doctor can be difficult. Getting legal matters in place is important while the family member is still functioning well. Managing the patient and her daily routine is something that takes getting used to. As disease progresses, handling a patient in the later stages of dementia who becomes delusional can be tough, but it can be done. Knowing what to expect is key.
In summary, knowing the cause of memory loss is important because some memory loss is normal, some can be reversed, some can be stopped in its tracks, and some can be slowed down in its progression.