Worried about your memory?

Many people worry about their memory, especially as they get older. Forgetting somebody's name, losing the car keys, going into a room and not remembering the reason why and feeling that a certain word or name is 'on the tip of your tongue' but you can't quite remember it, is all quite normal. When you think of how much information our brains have to cope with, it is not surprising that some of this information gets lost along the way.

However, if you are worried about memory loss and confusion, the following information gives an indication of what is 'normal' and what might be a cause for concern.

If you have noticed any of the warning signs on the following list, make a note of what is worrying you and go to see your GP.

There are other causes of memory loss which could be physical and can be helped by medication, the GP should check for these first. If the GP suspects Alzheimer's or another type of dementia, he or she will make a referral to the Memory Clinic who will carry out a more in-depth assessment. The Memory Clinic might then prescribe one of the anti-dementia drugs if they are suitable and advise you of the services they can offer. It is better to find out early rather than later so that you have access to all the services available, therefore a consultation with your doctor is very important.

Some of the signs to look for:-

Memory changes that disrupt daily life

One of the most common signs of dementia, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying solely on memory aids (for example, reminder notes or electronic devices) or relying on family members for things you used to handle on your own.

What's 'normal'? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

Challenges when planning or problem solving

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's 'normal'? Making occasional errors when balancing a chequebook.

Difficulties completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

People with dementia often find it hard to complete familiar daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favourite game.

What's 'normal'? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

Confusion with time or place

People with dementia can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's 'normal'? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later. Losing your bearings occasionally.

Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of dementia. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining colour or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not recognise their own reflection.

What's 'normal'? Vision changes related to ageing or cataracts.

New problems with words in speaking or writing

People with dementia may have trouble following or joining in a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a 'watch' a 'hand-clock').

What's 'normal'? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

A person with dementia may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's 'normal'? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

Decreased or poor judgment

People with dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's 'normal'? Making a bad decision once in a while.

Withdrawal from work or social activities

A person with dementia may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favourite sports team or remembering how to complete a favourite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's 'normal'? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

Changes in mood and personality

The mood and behaviour of people with dementia can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What's 'normal'? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

If you have questions about any of these warning signs click on the following link , fill in the information sheet and take it along to your GP to discuss it with him.  Early diagnosis provides the best opportunities for treatment, support and future planning.

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Combined investment in dementia research is 7 times lower than spending on cancer research.