Friday, October 23, 2020
Ever find yourself saying, "what was their name again? It's on the tip of my tongue." Then do you worry that you have dementia because you can't remember the word? The Washington Post tackled this in a recent article, Dementia is more than occasionally forgetting a name or a word.
First, it is important to know that dementia cannot be diagnosed from afar or by someone who is not a doctor. A person needs a detailed doctor’s exam for a diagnosis. Sometimes, brain imaging is required.
And, forgetting an occasional word — or even where you put your keys — does not mean a person has dementia. There are different types of memory loss and they can have different causes, such as other medical conditions, falls or even medication, including herbals, supplements and anything over-the-counter.
There is normal age-related memory loss, and the article emphasizes that such memory loss is normal! Let’s distinguish from memory loss that is not normal---“forgetting the name of someone you see every day; forgetting how to get to a place you visit frequently; or having problems with your activities of daily living, like eating, dressing and hygiene….When you have troubles with memory — but they don’t interfere with your daily activities — this is called mild cognitive impairment. Your primary care doctor can diagnose it. But sometimes it gets worse, so your doctor should follow you closely if you have mild cognitive impairment.”
The article offers the CDC's quick bullet-point list of warning signs for specific domains when forgetfulness is more than just normal age-related memory loss:
- Reasoning, judgment and problem solving.
- Visual perception beyond typical age-related changes in vision.
Although Alzheimer’s is the dementia that most often comes to mind, the article reminds us that there are several types of dementia. The article provides a good overview of the issues that arise from dementia and concludes with this thought-provoking observation:
But even more frightening is unrecognized or unacknowledged dementia. You must, openly and honestly, discuss changes you notice in your memory or thinking with your doctor. It’s the first step toward figuring out what is happening and making sure your health is the best it can be.
And, as with any disease or disease group, dementia is not a “character flaw,” and the term should not be used to criticize a person. Dementia is a serious medical diagnosis — ask those who have it, the loved ones who care for them or any of us who treat them.