Great news for residents of Cedar Rapids and elsewhere, especially those who fear the worst whenever they forget something. You don’t have advanced Alzheimer’s disease out of the blue and you don’t need hospice care immediately.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice is familiar with the many signs of Alzheimer’s and knows that occasionally forgetting something isn’t necessarily a big deal. At least in terms of guaranteeing you have that disease.
This is actually fairly common as we age – our brains do work a little differently, so the encoding and retrieval processes don’t work the same or as efficiently as they used to. So that’s why it’s easy to joke about “Old timer’s disease” instead of “Alzheimer’s disease.”
Forgetting things isn’t necessarily funny, and could suggest other forms of dementia or other health care conditions. But people with true Alzheimer’s disease are usually accompanied by a variety of other symptoms as the disease progressively affects their brain. So, taking a little longer to remember a fact, but you eventually do, is different than not knowing where you are, forgetting your place in a conversation, or what month it is.
Because there is some misunderstanding about the different types of confusion and memory lapses people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias or conditions may experience, the Alzheimer’s Association has even published a helpful guide. It distinguishes behavior that can disrupt daily life vs. occasional age-related memory skips.
For instance, making an occasional error in your household budget or payment schedule is considered normal, but not being able to concentrate on simple tasks like how to pay a bill online or how to follow a recipe is more concerning.
The same is true with following directions to a familiar spot or the rules of a favorite game, which could be signs of Alzheimer’s disease. But forgetting a complex procedure with your computer sometimes is expected.
Even having a word “on the tip of your tongue” is less concerning than coming up with the wrong word or not being able to describe the word you’re thinking of.
But the organization also suggests seeing a provider for whatever type of behaviors you’re experiencing. You’ll also continue to monitor – because Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, small signs may be seen today but could evolve as you age.
If what you’re experiencing doesn’t seem to fit the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, does this mean things are good? Not necessarily. You should still consider talking to a provider because they could indicate other things are happening with your body and brain.
The National Institute for Aging says several mental and physical conditions can lead to forgetfulness or memory lapses. All of them may feel concerning but some can be corrected and reversed with appropriate medication or treatment.
Some of these may include:
- Stress/mental health. Emotional conditions such as anxiety or depression all can be connected to forgetting minor and major information. One’s brain may go into crisis mode and only focus on basic survival duties and less about what day of the week it is. This can often be confused with Alzheimer’s disease, such as if someone begins to decline after their spouse dies. Although they may show dementia-like symptoms, the root of the problem is their emotional trauma.
- Chemical imbalances/poor nutrition. Not having enough vitamins and minerals in your diet can affect your brain in ways that resemble dementia. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 is especially dangerous. A provider may prescribe supplements or suggest foods that naturally have these items. This is another area of confusion: people living alone may not cook well for themselves, so their health suffers.
- Brain trauma. Problems in the brain can create conditions that could appear to be related to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This can include forgetting things as well as personality changes. They might be caused by actual trauma to the brain, like a fall that results in a concussion. Or it could be other problems such as a tumor putting pressure on different parts of the brain, a blood clot, or an infection. A provider may be able to diagnose these physical causes and offer suggestions, which can be anything from taking it easy until the concussion heals, trying therapy, or visiting a specialist in tumors and brain health.
- Some medications may cause conditions similar to dementia. Or a combination of prescriptions may trigger some of these changes in behavior, including forgetting details. A provider may be able to improve this by changing the types of medication, the quantities, or when in the day to take them. Perhaps take some medicine in the morning with food and others at night, rather than taking them all at once and suffering ill effects.
Because everyone forgets some details, you shouldn’t feel alone. There’s even a day for it where we all could gather and realize memory lapses are common: July 2 is National I Forgot Day. But it’s also OK to feel concerned about the causes or a possible connection to Alzheimer’s disease.