Is memory loss a common outcome of aging? What about those moments of forgetfulness that seem to happen more frequently as we age? Are these moments of forgetfulness the same as memory loss?
Aging is a uniquely individual process that brings fear and uncertainty to both the person and those who play a significant role in their life. Cognitive aging, or the impact of aging on learning, memory, and other higher-level thought processes, is a lifelong process that is part of aging. This is an ongoing but gradual process that includes an impact on memory, thought processes, understanding, decision-making, and problem-solving. “It happens to all of us, but it affects each of us in different ways,” says InnovAge Director of Mental Health Linda Efird.
“For healthy folks, this normal process minimally impacts their everyday functioning,” Linda says. This type of forgetfulness – needing more time to complete tasks, recall things (like where you left your keys), or learn new information – is all part of this normal process. “Typically, older adults can adjust to these changes.”
Memory loss is different, though, and it is not a normal part of aging. Serious memory problems may indicate the need for medical. These include:
- Difficulty performing routine tasks
- Repeating questions
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Inability to care for oneself
While memory loss is not expected, it can happen. “Research shows our cognitive health can be protected as we age,” Linda says. “Maintaining healthy cognitive functioning really does depend on our overall health. Exercising, having a healthy heart, using medications properly, and continuing to learn, can all help.”
Family caregivers can play a significant role by understanding the differences between forgetfulness and memory loss, and knowing the signs of when something more serious may be happening. “If you have any questions or concerns, be sure you’re talking to your loved one and their physician,” Linda says.