The Elms Blog

When to be Alarmed by Forgetfulness

Dec 14, 2021

When To Be Alarmed By Forgetfulness

Whether losing your keys, forgetting names, or having difficulty finding the right words are signs of dementia or aging is debatable. It takes an in-depth analysis to tell whether a person is aging or whether they’re suffering from memory loss.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Keller, a scholar involved with dementia research and prevention in Louisiana, you shouldn’t be overwhelmed with the signs of dementia. Instead, your focus should be on the circumstances under which those signs emerge. The way your brain reacts to a situation reflects the early signs of dementia.

A person with normal aging may have some memory loss. However, the main concern shouldn’t be if they have misplaced something but whether they can remember where they lost it. Another concern is whether they can hold on to information long enough to perform a multitask like filling out tax forms, even when they’re distracted while in the process. Keller affirms that a distraction easily misleads a person with memory loss. This is the time you can determine whether they can switch tasks.

When you cannot multitask, plan, solve problems or make decisions, this is a sign of deteriorating cognitive function rather than just memory loss. Experts claim that memory lapse manifests in different ways.

For example, a person who loses their executive functions is unable to manage finances even before they show signs of dementia. According to research, a person with Alzheimer’s starts missing bill payments six years before being diagnosed with the condition. Additionally, their credit scores drop more than two years before their diagnosis.

Dr. James Galvin, from the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the University of Miami, also claims that people with memory lapse make poor financial decisions. He claims that they make purchases they have never made or are victims of scams because of poor judgment and inability to comprehend the negative consequences of their financial choices.

The Early Signs of Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the early signs of dementia are as follows:

  • Memory decline that affects your daily life
  • Difficulty with problem-solving
  • Difficulty performing familiar jobs
  • Losing track of time or places
  • Inability to comprehend spatial relationships and visual images
  • Difficulty speaking or writing
  • Losing things and being unable to find them
  • Poor judgment
  • Mood swings

Why You Should Get a Medical Evaluation

Keller says that you shouldn’t be concerned with whether a person shows these signs occasionally but whether the signs are severe enough to affect their daily routine and social life. Before attributing these signs to dementia, Keller believes it’s crucial to eliminate other health conditions. For example, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression can affect cognitive function and even lead to memory loss.

According to Keller, you should first visit a practitioner for an evaluation. The doctor will determine whether the signs you’re exhibiting are from another cause. 

Another reason to consult a doctor is to help them make better decisions in the future. The practitioner will help them choose a health care proxy. Other considerations a doctor will help them factor in their decisions include the need for a DNR (do-not-resuscitate order) and a durable power of attorney. This will ensure that the patient’s wishes are met should they lose their mental faculties.

Galvin concludes by saying it’s difficult to determine when to take a person for a medical evaluation. According to him, it’s better to come early than too late. Dementia has no cure, but a doctor can help slow down cognitive decline. Practicing healthy behaviors when one is young helps protect them from brain problems when they grow old. One way to preserve cognitive function is to challenge yourself to learn new things as you age.

The Elms Retirement Residence Can Help!

If you or a loved one has concerns about memory care or would like an evaluation to determine if assisted living might be the right choice for you, please call us at (401) 596-4630.

We know that change can be intimidating. We help Seniors make the transition into our community home every single day.


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