Forgetfulness vs. Dementia

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“Where are my keys?” Who hasn’t uttered this phrase in frustration? For some of us, this is accompanied by fear, followed by another nagging question, one that we are afraid to say out loud – “Am I losing my memory?”

Occasional forgetfulness is not pathological. For most of us, it is simply cognitive overload. We attempt unrealistic packed schedules with endless “to do” lists. We juggle work, carpool, homework, household duties, family and social obligations, squeezing in workouts and sleep when we can, while leaving healthy eating as an afterthought – WHEW! Is it any wonder that those keys end up somewhere if we haven’t designated a spot for them?

Forgetting where you left your keys isn’t a sign of dementia, but forgetting that those keys are used to start your car is a cause for concern.

Although one of the hallmarks of dementia is memory loss, dementia is not one disease, and much more than memory loss is involved. The term dementia is a category, or umbrella term, that encompasses conditions that affect cognition (thinking) to the extent that they interfere with the ability to perform daily activities and problem solving, as well as maintaining emotional control and personality. Such changes are not a part of normal aging, and include conditions such as vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In many cases, such changes are the result of treatable conditions. Examples include: medication side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency, alcoholism, endocrine disorders, stress, depression, and anxiety. The first step toward wellness is picking up the phone and making an appointment to see your physician.

Memories are indeed precious; they enable us to learn new information, function safely, give us joy, and shape our personalities. Memory is worth protecting! If you are experiencing difficulty remembering, or if you notice symptoms in your loved one, contact your physician for an evaluation.