Memory Loss: Age-Related or Dementia? (Part 1)

As we age, some of us may suffer from forgetfulness or memory loss. It can manifest differently for each person and can be a source of stress and anxiety. A significant amount of stress related to memory loss is the fear of inadequacy or losing a sense of self. This fear is fueled by a lack of information about memory loss and the diversity of diagnosis which may affect memory. This myth-busting article will cover memory loss from normal aging, or age-associated memory impairment and other important factors to consider. Stay tuned for part 2 where we will be covering memory loss as affected by dementia.

Memory loss is an unfortunate but inevitable part of aging. As we age our neurological pathways lose their elasticity and do not redevelop as quickly as they used to. Thus naturally, approximately 40 per cent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss. It is possible to have age-associated memory impairment without any underlying medical condition. However, it is also possible that there is an underlying medical condition that is not dementia. Some medical conditions that could be affecting your loved one include mental health and physical health. Make sure to consult your doctor if you or your loved one is experiencing signs of memory loss to receive appropriate care.

Mental Health

Mental health, like physical health, must be taken seriously and addressed holistically to live a long-fulfilled life. Mental illness can affect your body in a variety of ways, including memory loss. Make sure to keep an eye on your elderly loved ones who have gone through a major life change or have a history of mental illness. The loss of a spouse or friend can be emotionally and physically devastating. Grief and ongoing depression can affect mood, sleep, appetite and mental functions, including memory. Depression can greatly affect memory and lead to further health complications as memory issues affect their ability to care for themselves. It is paramount for seniors with memory issues or mental illness to be supported with a personal caregiver or a family member because remembering to eat well and take their medication on time is critical. If your loved one has memory issues, withdrawn from their social support system, lost their appetite or is having trouble sleeping it is time to have them consult with their doctor and hire a personal caregiver to ensure they are supported through this difficult time.

Physical Health

There are specific medical conditions that can cause severe memory issues. If the conditions are addressed and treated, then the memory issues should dissipate.

Memory-affecting Medical Conditions
  • Nutrition: nutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficit
  • Head or brain conditions: concussion, tumor, blood clot or infections
  • Medication side effects
  • Organ disorders
  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Signs of Age-Related Memory Loss

There are some general signs of age-associated memory impairment you can look out for and address with the consultation of your doctor.

  • Occasionally forgetting details – Names, dates or facts
  • Occasionally forgetting events – Parties, the date for paying taxes, appointments
  • Occasionally having difficulty finding your words – Vocabulary on the “tip of your tongue”

As you can see, an age-associated memory impairment is a mild case of memory loss that only affects you occasionally. If the moments of forgetting increases or becomes more severe consult your doctor and try some of our tips below.

Tips for Better Memory

  • Eating healthy food full of vitamins and minerals
  • Sleeping 8 hours a day
  • Do moderate exercise every day
  • Socialize
  • Keep a schedule or agenda for event and appointment dates
  • Maintain a routine
  • Repetition is key – put your keys away in the same place every time and repeat names of new friends
  • Brain games – keep your brain strong by learning new skills, reading and doing your daily chores