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Dr. Allison Lamont, Brain and Memory Foundation.
I often have the privilege of speaking to groups about memory loss – it's something that concerns us all. Or people come to the memory clinic because they are forgetting appointments, forever losing their glasses, or going off to the supermarket for milk and coming home with everything but! People describe their memory lapses to me and ask worriedly "Does this mean I am getting Alzheimer's?"
There are changes in memory with ageing, such as those listed. By the way, that doesn't mean we should accept them as inevitable because we can do something about it and be assured of memory improvement and brain resilience.
But today I want to talk about the signs of dementia, most commonly caused by Alzheimer's Disease.
Signs of Dementia
Dementia is the gradual deterioration of mental functioning such as concentration, memory, and judgement which affect a person's ability to perform normal daily activities. So, how do we know if we have normal memory changes or one of the dementias? Rest assured, Alzheimer's or any of the other dementias have very different characteristics to ‘losing my glasses, forgetting the milk, or trouble remembering names'.
If you, or someone you know, develops the sorts of problems listed below, then it is time to have a doctor's check.
Memory problems that aren't part of normal ageing
- Forgetting autobiographical information such as your address
- Having difficulty learning new things
- Profound difficulty recalling objects, places, times, dates, names
- Forgetting how to do everyday things such as making a cup of tea
- Not recognising family or friends
- Forgetting how to maintain personal hygiene
- Repeating phrases, questions or stories in the same conversation
- Trouble making choices or handling money
- Tendency to wander aimlessly from home
- Noticeable language and intellectual decline
- Poor judgement
- A growing sense of distrust
- Inability to keep track of day to day events
- Inability to follow simple instructions or to concentrate
- Feeling more depressed, confused, restless and anxious
As you can see, these worrying signs are in a different league to our usual everyday memory changes with ageing. So next time you forget an appointment, wonder why on earth you went down to the lounge though you are sure it was for something, or momentarily forget your best friend's name, please don't say "I'm having an Alzheimer's moment" – instead, keep reading this column as I give you plenty of trips and strategies for memory improvement.
Dr. Allison Lamont is founder and memory consultant at the Auckland Memory Clinic. The clinic website is memoryclinic.co.nz.
After caregiving their mother who developed Alzheimer's Disease, Allison and her sister, Gillian Eadie, founded the Brain and Memory Foundation to provide information on memory and brain health. The website provides strategies for memory improvement, and you can subscribe to the free Brain Tune mini-course to get you started on sharpening your memory and building brain resilience.