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Me­mory prob­lems: 10 warn­ing signs

The Covington News - - Health & Wellness -

Es­pe­cially as we age, most have nig­gling wor­ries about bouts of for­get­ful­ness be­ing the first signs of de­men­tia of the Alzheimer’s type. But a new study by the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, pub­lished on­line in the Oc­to­ber 29, 2007, is­sue of “Neu­roepi­demi­ol­ogy,” found that in a na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of older adults, only 5 per­cent of those in their 70s had de­men­tia. Fur­ther, al­though the risk rises with ag­ing, only 24 per­cent in their 80s and only 37 per­cent in their 90s have de­men­tia. This is en­cour­ag­ing, sug­gest­ing that the ma­jor­ity of us can ex­pect our mem­o­ries to serve us well into our later years.

Still, while oc­ca­sional for­get­ful­ness (trou­ble re­mem­ber­ing proper nouns like the names of peo­ple, books, movies or places or for­get­ting where you put your glasses or car keys which we even­tu­ally lo­cate) is part of nor­mal ag­ing, there are 10 signs we should be aware of that in­di­cate that me­mory lapses may be se­ri­ous.

1. In­creased dif­fi­culty per­form­ing familiar tasks such as driv­ing or cook­ing that im­pede the abil­ity to per­form daily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at work or at home.

2. Dis­ori­en­ta­tion to or trou­ble rec­og­niz­ing familiar places or faces; get­ting lost; fre­quent con­fu­sion as to date and time.

3. Dif­fi­culty re­mem­ber­ing the proper place for com­mon ob­jects.

4. Dif­fi­culty find­ing the right words to ex­press thoughts such that you have trou­ble con­vers­ing with oth­ers or fol­low­ing a con­ver­sa­tion.

5. Dif­fi­culty with spa­tial re­la­tion­ships and com­plex in­tel­lec­tual tasks such as read­ing a map, grasp­ing a new idea or learn­ing new skills and dis­play­ing fre­quent prob­lems with in­sight and judg­ment.

6. In­creased dif­fi­culty con­cen­trat­ing on spe­cific tasks or ac­tiv­i­ties.

7. Dif­fi­culty fol­low­ing in­struc­tions, es­pe­cially when they in­volve a se­ries of tasks, com­plet­ing tasks and/or ask­ing the same ques­tions over and over.

8. In­creas­ing pas­siv­ity, ap­a­thy, loss of en­ergy, loss of mo­ti­va­tion, in­creased sleep and/or in­dif­fer­ence to your sur­round­ings.

9. Changes in be­hav­ior (in­creased ir­ri­tabil­ity or ag­gres­sive con­duct) or mood (sus­pi­cion, in­creased anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, or mood swings).

10. Ne­glect of per­sonal hy­giene (show­er­ing or bathing, den­tal care) and safety (re­peated leav­ing the stove burner on).

Very of­ten, th­ese prob­lems are no­ticed by friends and fam­ily first, so if you’re wor­ried about your own or an­other’s me­mory, con­sider get­ting a med­i­cal as­sess­ment.

A physi­cian can rule out other pos­si­ble causes such as thy­roid ab­nor­mal­i­ties, de­pres­sion, vi­ta­min de­fi­ciency or sleep de­pri­va­tion or con­sult a me­mory spe­cial­ist such as a geri­atric psy­chi­a­trist (MD), geri­atric psy­chol­o­gist (PhD), ge­ri­a­tri­cian (MD), or neu­rol­o­gist (MD). Prompt treat­ment may slow de­men­tia of the Alzheimer’s type and/or ease its symp­toms.

Peggy Nolen

Colum­nist

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