Memory often becomes increasingly unreliable in old age. One of the signs of impending senility is people tend to remember things that happened to them decades ago in great detail. And yet, at the same time, they forget what they did or where they were just hours before.

Okay, so that’s a stereotype, but it fits with the characteristics of short-term memory loss, which exaggerates as we age. Senility in its general sense denotes impaired cognitive function due to aging and no reason for alarm because of its slow advance. As dementia, especially as associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, it destroys memory and brings about other life-threatening conditions.

Among the typical challenges in caring for the elderly is dealing with fading and erratic memory. They may become confused in familiar places, including their own homes, or forgotten how to do things they’ve been doing all their lives. A leisurely drive in familiar territory may become an adventure in trying to find their way back home. It starts with brief lapses in memory, forgetting the name of friends and family or where you put those darn keys or cell phone on a daily basis. It may mean the end of living independently due to the dangers of these memory lapses. Forgetting to turn off the water drawn for a bath or the gas jets under the frying pan may result in damage, injury or death. Among the most common are health complications from prescription drugs because you forgot what pills you’ve taken and when to take them next.

When to Worry about Forgetfulness…

After an elderly family member has already reached the dementia stage, it will get worse with only medication slowing its advance. The stress of not being able to remember things discourages social interaction and conversation which only worsens the condition.

Forgetfulness is often a common complaint at the far end of the aging process, but there are some things you might watch for when conversing with the elderly under your care:

  • Repeating phrases and observations during the course of the conversation.
  • Forgetting movie and book titles watched or read in the previous 24-48 hours
  • Not recognizing landmarks near your home that you have passed recently and regularly

What Age-Related Memory Loss Is Normal?

Most adults, whatever their age, have had the experience of walking into a room and forgetting why they came there. If this happens routinely, it may be a problem. And some of the preceding examples may not be experienced by every elderly person with sound brain ad body health. The reasons for a flawed or sound memory in one’s later years can be traced to genetics, lifestyle or activities like reading or memorizing regularly. Some age-related memory loss is normal, and we all forget something once in a while.

When Should You Call a Doctor?

Occasional forgetfulness can be annoying for both those experiencing it and people dealing with them, but it is no reason to panic. However, if a loved one or someone for whom you provide care exhibits signs of unnatural memory loss, you should see that they get to a doctor. If you discern any such symptoms or signs as a caregiver, do not hesitate to take them to the doctor for immediate care and testing. It could be the key to living longer, healthier and happier.

What Causes Age-Related Memory Loss?

The brain changes as you age. Like a well-maintained engine, it may perform admirably. If it sputters along at times, some irreplaceable parts are wearing out. As long as it performs well enough to do its job, you may have to move over to the slow lane.  You can still get where you want to go. The slowdown of mental processes may not necessarily include significant memory loss.

A healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise, and active brain activity, is the best thing you can do for your brain and memory.

Since 2001, Dr. Alexander Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey.  Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues, including alcohol addiction.

Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey, under Dr. Alexander Salerno focused on urban communities uses outreach to educate people about both medical and behavioral health.