When Is Memory Loss A Sign Of Dementia?

Old age is a frightening experience for many people. Body changes are difficult to face. Increased levels of nagging pain are distressing. Among the most frightening aspects of aging, however, is memory loss. Most elderly people find memories slipping to some degree and when that happens they worry that dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is setting in. It is important to note that losing one’s memory is frightening. Memories are an important part of your identity and your ability to contribute to everyday conversations or relate to friends and loved ones. Memories are important both at work and at home.

But recognizing the signs of dementia is confusing, as noted above because it is hard to measure memory loss and to distinguish between memory loss that is typical and loss that is not. Whatever your fears might be, remember it takes impairment in more than one brain function to be given a diagnosis of dementia. The basic brain functions involved include language, communication, focus, and reasoning.

A visit to an internist is critical at the earliest sign that brain functioning is impaired. Although there is no cure, there are steps to take that can slow the onset of dementia, call 619-333-8114.


Some early signs of dementia include:


  • Difficulty with short term memory


Short-term memory is the recall of something that happened within the last ten minutes, but for all practical purposes, it includes what might have occurred in the past day or so. One sign of short-term memory loss is the inability for someone to remember what they had for breakfast, while they can remember their childhood reasonably well.


  • What’s the word?


Another sign of dementia is difficulty finding the right word to complete a sentence. Everyone has difficulty recalling the right word once in a while because the memory of words does not always have an event attached to them (which assists with recall). However, frequent inability to find the right word could be a warning sign.


  • Sudden anger or mood changes


People often try to hide the fact that they are having difficulty with routine tasks or remembering things. As such, they try to mask their difficulties. Eventually, frustration builds up, however, giving way to anger or depression.


  • Lack of excitement in life – apathy


As dementia sets in, people lose interest in things they used to enjoy, including personal hobbies they’ve enjoyed for years. They stop taking part in various activities. Listlessness sets in.


  • General confusion


With dementia comes a preoccupation with getting things right and an increased inability for that to happen. People begin losing track of stories out of difficulty with short-term memory and internal distractions. They might stop you in the middle of a story to ask you to repeat the beginning.


  • Repetition


Persons with dementia might repeat various behaviors, a sign of short-term memory loss. They might repeat taking a bath or shaving. They might take the dog for a walk having just recently done so.

When To Seek Help


There is no current cure for dementia, but there are medications and cognitive therapies that can slow down the onset or provide coping strategies to prolong an active, engaged lifestyle. In San Diego, call Pacific Medical Care at 619-333-8114 to schedule an appointment for a check-up or a referral to a neurologist.

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