Forgetfulness or dementia?

All of us are forgetful from time to time and increasingly so as we age. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have dementia.

Dementia-related memory loss has different characteristics than occasional brain fogginess which interferes with instant recall.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, an example of normal forgetfulness is walking into the kitchen and not remembering the purpose for going there, or misplacing your car keys.

A person with dementia, however, may lose the car keys and then forget what they are used for.

Some conditions – vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication clashes,  overmedication, infections and brain tumours – can also produce symptoms similar to dementia.

The association says some memory loss is a normal part of healthy ageing, so long as the lapses are not frequent and do not interfere with daily life.

However, if a person forgets part or all of an event they have attended or witnessed, this could be a tell-tale sign of early dementia.

Another clue that suggests forgetfulness as a precursor to Alzheimer’s is a person’s constant inability to follow a conversation or a simple set of instructions.

But the biggest giveaway is the inability to perform everyday tasks around the home, such as cooking and keeping up with personal hygiene.

There are a number of brain diseases that come under the umbrella term, dementia, including vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, Huntington’s disease, alcohol-related dementia (Korsakoff’s syndrome) and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.

Alzheimer’s Australia strongly recommends that if you are concerned about your memory loss you should consult your doctor.

“It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained at an early stage when symptoms first appear, to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly,” the association says.

Is your memory loss worrying you? What is the funniest thing you have forgotten to do?

Written by Olga Galacho

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