When and Why You Should Do It
Have you ever forgotten someone’s name or why you walked into a room? A little forgetfulness is completely normal and a fact of our very busy lives. But if you are experiencing memory lapses that are more significant, like forgetting basic skills, asking the same question repeatedly or how to get home, it may be time for a trip to the doctor. And while it is important to get checked out when noticing changes in memory, it is also important to remember that early diagnosis and appropriate care are key to managing the changes that you or a loved one may be experiencing.
Age or Something More?
Some degree of memory loss is a normal part of aging for many people. Changes in memory related to aging, or the occasional “senior moment”, are manageable and generally do not disrupt the ability to live independently, work or have an active social life. As we age, we experience many changes in the body and those changes extend to our brains as well. In addition, some memory problems are brought on by medical conditions such as blood clots, thyroid, liver or kidney disorders, head injuries, not following a healthy diet or drinking too much alcohol. Memory issues can also present as a side effect of medication. With treatable conditions and lifestyle changes, many of these memory problems will go away with proper treatment.
Should You See a Doctor?
Anyone concerned about memory loss should see their doctor but you may be wondering what to expect when you get there. In addition to a physical exam, you might be asked questions such as…
- When did your memory problems begin?
- Have you recently started a new drug? What medications, prescription and over-the-counter, do you take?
- Have you recently been sick or suffered a major loss or stressful event?
- What tasks do you find difficult?
Tests that can help identify memory problems, evaluate thinking skills or even brain imaging may also be administered. In addition, your doctor may offer some tips and techniques that can help. Here are a few from the National Institute on Aging:
- Learn a new skill
- Use memory tools such as big calendars, to-do lists and notes
- Put your essentials (wallets, purse, keys, cell phone) in the same place every day
- Exercise, eat well and get involved in activities that help the mind and body
- Limit alcohol
- Get lots of rest
- If you are feeling depressed, seek help
Perhaps most importantly, it is imperative to know that memory problems are nothing to be ashamed of and early diagnosis can help lead you down the path to recovery or effective management of the issue. Now, more than ever there are many resources and organizations that help patients, loved ones and caretakers as they cope with memory loss.