About Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Problems

About Alzheimer's and Memory Problems, Photo of older  woman looking thoughtfully out window

Alzheimer's is the most common dementia. Dementia is the progressive loss of cognitive functioning and behavioral abilities.

Causes of Memory Loss

Sometimes I forget things. Should I be concerned?

Everyone forgets things. How many times have you lost your car keys or forgotten the name of a person you just met? Forgetfulness tends to increase with age, but there's a big difference between normal absent-mindedness and the type of memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Normal aging and memory loss

Normal age-related memory loss doesn't prevent you from living a full and productive life. You just need more time to remember a name or make lists of things you plan to do. You're aware that you're forgetful and may even joke about it.

People with memory loss due to something other than normal aging may feel that something's not quite right, but they're unable to pinpoint what's bothering them. Rather than call attention to a memory lapse, they may become more withdrawn or try to hide their mistakes.

If you're concerned about memory loss

See your doctor. Your doctor can help determine the cause of your memory loss. Many things can cause forgetfulness and a number of them may be able to be reversed. Work with your doctor to determine what's going on with your memory and what can be done about it.

Prepare a list of questions to make the most of your time with your doctor. List questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. Basic questions include:

  • Are my symptoms caused by normal aging, or is it a sign of something more serious?
  • What are the possible causes of memory loss besides Alzheimer's disease?
  • Is the condition likely temporary or long term?
  • What tests do you suggest?
  • Should I consult a specialist?
  • What will that cost and will insurance cover it?

When to seek a diagnosis

10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease

  • Changes in memory that disrupt daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems in speaking and writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawing from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

Dementia education

Refer a patient