At some point we’ve all had times of forgetfulness or misplacing things. Our keys get  lost or we draw a blank trying to remember where the car is parked or what we just ate for breakfast. We can usually sort it out and remember things with some time and patience. But when is forgetfulness or memory loss of concern?

Serious memory problems can be disabling and make it hard to accomplish routine tasks without help. This is different from the occasional forgetfulness that comes with aging. Memory loss that disrupts routines and activities of daily living is concerning, and caregivers should know it may signal a change in a person’s condition.

If you are worried about memory loss, that is reason enough to see your doctor. Seeing a primary care physician, or PCP, who already knows you is a good place to start. Signs that it may be time to see a doctor may include:

         Trouble speaking, or misusing common words

         Confusion about time, people and places

         Feeling lost in familiar areas or residence

         Not caring for oneself or others as usual

         Unexplained changes in behavior and mood

         Not realizing unsafe or dangerous situations

         Repeating the same questions over and over

         Returning common items to unusual places

         Trouble following plans or routine tasks

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and memory loss in older adults. If you are worried that changes in your memory may be related to dementia, you should talk with your doctor about it.

There are medications that can temporarily ease some of the symptoms of dementia. Caregivers should also know that memory loss doesn’t automatically mean someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Other health problems can also affect memory, including stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and many conditions that can affect our ability to be alert and access memory. Caregivers should be observant of changes in memory or memory loss that can come from medication side effects and know how to intervene.

Caregivers can also encourage individuals to do things that may help with memory such as:

         Doing mentally stimulating puzzles and games

         Socializing and connecting with others

         Exercising mind and body together

         Stopping or limiting alcohol intake

         Reducing over the counter medications

         Eating a healthy diet and keeping hydrated

         Staying organized with a “to-do list”

         Sleeping well for better alertness and recall

         Doing new fun things and pursuing interests


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AGING IN HAWAII EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH PROGRAM by Attention Plus Care — a program to provide resources for seniors and their families, instructed by a registered nurse, who covers a different aging topic each month. For more information on Transitional Care and free community workshops on Aging in Hawai‘i hosted by Attention Plus Care, call 808-440-9356.