As we get older, small changes in memory, such as forgetting where you placed your keys or the name of the person you just met, are common with aging. However, when these instances happen more often and start to disrupt a person’s ability to work and live independently, it might be time to get help.
“Everyone goes through periods of forgetfulness, but it’s not just because you are getting older, as most people think,” said Farha Abbasi, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University, who also provides psychiatric services at McLaren Greater Lansing. “There are multiple causes that play a role that affect your memory.”
This includes overall health, medication side effects, alcohol or substance use, if you had a stroke or head injury, if you have sleep apnea, or if you have a family history of memory conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
People who are having memory impairment experience gradual changes over time that can eventually become a health concern that needs further evaluation and support. Some changes to look out for include:
- Losing track of date or time of year
- Forgetting where you are or how to get back home
- Misplacing things often and being unable to find them
- Trouble having a conversation
- Losing insight or awareness of memory loss
- Being unable to perform daily tasks such as paying bills, taking medications, shopping, and driving
Dr. Abbasi stressed the importance of social interaction along with physical exercise that helps keep your mind and body active.
“Think of your brain as if it is a muscle: You have to keep exercising it in order to stay strong,” said Dr. Abbasi. “As we age, we often cut down on our physical and mental work. We tend to be less physically active, have more medical issues that causes us to slow down, and fewer social interactions occur.”
People dealing with forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques to help them stay healthy and help them deal with memory changes. This includes learning a new skill or hobby, making a to-do list, reading, word finding or puzzling, getting at least eight hours of sleep every night, and eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in B6, B12, and omega-3.
If you or a loved one is experiencing cognitive changes, talk to your primary care provider for an evaluation. McLaren Greater Lansing’s geropsychiatric evaluation and management services (G.E.M.S) program provides emotional and mental health care for older adults who may be suffering from conditions such as memory loss, trouble with self-care, confusion, and dementia.
For a list of primary care physicians at McLaren Greater Lansing accepting new patients, click here.