Milestone Blog

Return To Blog

Memory loss vs. forgetfulness: How to recognize the difference

|

Anyone who loves a senior understands the importance of being informed on senior issues, and so do we. Our News You Can Use posts are meant to help seniors and their families as they learn and transition together through the physical and emotional changes brought on by aging.

If your mom and dad are advancing in years, chances are you’ve noticed some changes in their memory, like not remembering where they parked or forgetting to grab eggs at the grocery store. But where’s the line between “this is a normal part of aging” and “dad may need help”? Here are some signs to look for when assessing whether or not your parent might be having a significant decline in their memory.

1) Repetitive short term memory loss
A lot of times, seniors with memory loss can recall the name of every friend they had 30 years ago, but they can’t remember what they ate for breakfast. Checking your parents’ short term memory is easy: ask them questions about their day. If they have a hard time with their responses, that might be a red flag.

2) Difficulty following storylines
If your mom has a puzzled look on her face every time you explain why you had a rough day at work or try to catch her up on your favorite TV show, you might want to look into other symptoms of memory loss. Why? Because memory loss impairs our abilities to recognize words, both visually and audibly. So, if your mom can’t follow your stories, it may be because she doesn’t recognize some of the words you’re using.

3) Failing sense of direction
Did your dad always have an impeccable sense of direction that guided your family through every summer vacation, but now he needs to pull out a map? Chances are, that’s a normal part of aging. But what if your dad gets lost on his way to the same grocery store he’s gone to for 15 years? Or takes the wrong turn on his routine morning walk around the block? If your mom or dad has multiple episodes of being disoriented in familiar places, that may be a sign of more significant memory loss.

4) Skipping parts of their daily routine
We all have days where we put less effort into our appearance (messy hair and sweat pants, anyone?) but if your mom goes days without brushing her teeth or changing her clothes, or if she appears to be avoiding bathing altogether, that might be a cause for concern. If you can’t see your mom every day, some things to look for when you visit are unkempt hair, uncommonly bad breath or stained clothes.

5) Losing things… a lot.
Have you ever been in a panic over misplacing something important and thought to yourself “where is the last place I had it?” People with memory loss have a really hard time answering that question, so a lot of their stuff, important, mundane, or anywhere in between, gets lost and stays lost.  Also, people with memory loss sometimes stash things away in “safe” places and forget where they are, compounding the lost-and-can’t-be-found conundrum.

Helping a senior? If care at home is not working well, it could be time for a transition to senior living. Find a Milestone community near you to get started.