Becoming forgetful is a common sign of getting older. In fact, at least half of all people over the age of 65 report feeling more forgetful than when they were younger. But when does forgetfulness start to cross the line into signs of dementia? This can be a stressful thing to worry about for seniors and those who care for them. Here are some of the differences between forgetfulness and dementia.
Symptoms of Forgetfulness
Everybody can be forgetful from time to time, and forgetfulness tends to increase as we age because there is a decline in the hormones and proteins that fix and improve the brain. These symptoms don’t indicate and won’t necessarily lead to dementia.
- Occasionally forgetting where you placed things like keys or glasses
- Occasionally forgetting appointments
- Forgetting memories
- Occasionally forgetting the details of a conversation
- Occasionally having words “at the tip of your tongue”
- Losing some memories
Symptoms of Memory Loss
Memory loss can be a symptom of dementia, but it is possible to have memory loss that does not lead to dementia. Signs of memory loss should be brought up to a doctor because it can be a symptom of mild cognitive impairment or other health conditions such as depression or a lack of vitamin B12.
- Struggling to remember things daily
- Memory loss with other symptoms like tiredness, depression, or weight loss
- Lifestyle choices like drugs or alcohol impair your memory
Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Mild Cognitive Impairment is a grey area between normal age-related memory loss and dementia. It causes noticeable memory problems that still don’t interfere with daily life too much. While MCI often leads to dementia, that isn’t always the case, so it’s important not to worry too much yet if your loved one is dealing with MCI, although you should still discuss these symptoms with a doctor.
- Frequently losing things
- Frequently forgetting conversations, appointments or events
- Trouble remembering names
- Becoming reliant on notes and day planners to stay on top of your daily life
Symptoms of Dementia
Someone with dementia displays similar symptoms as somebody with mild cognitive impairment, but these symptoms have a more profound effect on their daily life. The progression from MCI to dementia is unpredictable and may take several years.
- Constantly struggling to remember recent events while recalling earlier years in great clarity
- Forgetting the names of loved ones
- Difficulty following conversations or television programs
- Forgetting the names of common objects
- Constantly repeating yourself or losing your train of thought
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Major changes in personality
Memory loss is common as we age, although one study showed that seniors with memory problems were much more likely to develop dementia than those without subjective memory problems. Memory loss and forgetfulness can also be symptoms of problems like depression and anxiety.
While a little bit of forgetfulness is not a reason to panic, it should be mentioned to you or your loved one’s doctor so that any progression can be monitored. Medications are more effective when started in the early stages of dementia.