Is It Just Forgetfulness or Something Serious?

It is estimated that as many as 6.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that three-quarters of those people are over the age of 75. When someone begins to forget things in daily life, it will be called forgetfulness or something more. There are different kinds of forgetfulness, with extreme cases of forgetfulness being referred to as cognitive impairment. 

Cognitive impairment refers to the more serious kinds of forgetfulness, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. These conditions will have a negative impact on quality of life. Patients with these problems go from forgetting names to forgetting to pay bills, how to cook food, and struggling with other daily matters. 

If you are wondering if you or a loved one is suffering from forgetfulness or something more, use this guide to learn more about this common condition.

Understanding Forgetfulness vs. Cognitive Decline

There are different kinds of forgetfulness which can look like simple absent-mindedness, to serious levels of cognitive impairment. To understand whether it is forgetfulness or something more, the kinds of symptoms and how long they have been lasting need to be identified. For the most part, forgetfulness and cognitive decline are symptoms that worsen with age. The symptoms of absent-mindedness and cognitive decline are similar, but not always identical.

Simple forgetfulness will look like a repetition of asking the same questions again and again in the same conversation. This is a person who is forgetful within the same discussion. Forgetful people may begin to feel lost when they are traveling or running daily errands. They may also have difficulties following simple instructions, such as within a recipe, or following directions.

You will find that someone with cognitive impairment will experience these symptoms to a larger degree as they age. They will become more confused, and may even be unable to take care of themselves for simple matters such as bathing and eating. Forgetfulness will cause some difficulty in daily life. Cognitive impairment will as well, but those difficulties will be worsened.

Forgetfulness with normal aging can look like you are making a bad decision once in a while, whereas a serious cognitive impairment will have the same symptoms most of the time. A forgetful person may miss a payment or two on something, while those with cognitive impairment will have regular problems taking care of their bills. You may forget what day it is but remember it moments later with forgetfulness, or lose track of an entire month or year with cognitive impairment.

Losing things is also common with both forgetfulness and cognitive impairment. Whether it is forgetfulness or something more will depend on how often you lose things daily. Overall, most experts and doctors will say there are different kinds of memory loss. An acute type of memory loss will be generalized forgetfulness and absent-mindedness, while progressive memory loss is a serious case of cognitive impairment.

Early Signs and Causes of Memory Issues

The early signs and causes of memory loss and forgetfulness are sometimes easy to overlook or miss. So you may not notice that someone is asking the same question repeatedly in a conversation until it happens several times with you. They may have problems remembering recent things that you discussed, even when you provide clues to trigger their memory. They may miss an appointment, or forget to pay some bills on occasion.

Many things can cause these early signs of forgetfulness or something more. An underactive thyroid can impact our overall memory. If you suffer from some kind of forgetfulness, talk to your doctor. This can be isolated with a simple blood test to determine if your thyroid needs help.

That is an easily diagnosed and treated problem that can make your forgetfulness go away. Other innocuous events in life like stress or anxiety can also result in forgetfulness. Depression is also listed as a key factor in forgetfulness. This is a sadness that consumes you and makes you unable to perform simple activities because you’ve forgotten that you need to do them.

Alcohol and some medications will also cause temporary or acute forgetfulness. However, some of those causes will also trigger long-term cognitive decline or impairment. Head trauma or brain injury can also cause forgetfulness or something more. In some cases, these causes can be treated, whereas in others this problem will become a part of daily life.

Identifying Potential Memory Problems

Identifying potential memory problems can be difficult. It can be hard to determine if the daily challenges this problem causes are forgetfulness or something more. When the symptoms begin to interfere with life negatively on a persistent basis, the memory loss will need to be addressed. It is time to see a doctor if you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss symptoms daily.

You will want to get your memory problem identified when the issue has been happening for a long time. If you are taking a lot of different medications, a doctor can help you to determine if they are contributing to your memory loss. An assessment of recent illnesses, stress levels, anxiety problems, and depression will also help to rule out more serious signs of cognitive impairment.

Additionally, if you are experiencing forgetfulness or something more after a car accident or head trauma, your doctor will want to know. Your medical history along with a history of whether you consume alcohol will be assessed. You may also be asked questions about what things in life you find difficult, and what steps or strategies you take to cope with memory issues. Your doctor may perform some simple cognitive tests to determine your level of forgetfulness or cognitive impairment.

When your forgetfulness interferes with your life regularly and negatively, it is time to have these tests performed. Make a checklist of the things you have forgotten over the past month that you can remember. Write down conversations that seemed difficult, how you pay the bills, and how you keep track of time and calendar dates. If this is a difficult list to write, you may need to talk to someone about how to identify the underlying issues to determine what causes absent-mindedness and forgetfulness.

Strategies for Improving Memory and Cognitive Health

On the upside, it can be said that there are effective strategies for improving your memory and your overall cognitive health. Some memory loss can be preventable, and even treatable. In some cases, minor levels of forgetfulness like amnesia after an accident or trauma will heal on its own in time. In other cases, you may need a doctor or specialist to help you take care of yourself when you forget to do simple things.

Healthily managing your overall health will also help to keep forgetfulness at bay. Keep track of all of your appointments in a calendar that you know you can’t make a mistake on. You may even want two calendars if your forgetfulness can be serious at times. At the same time, create a structured routine in your day so that you do not forget to do daily life simple things in daily life.

This is a strategy to prevent forgetfulness among millions of people. Our lives are chaotic and fast-paced, even when we are retired. A routine in your every day, even on relaxing days off, can help you to treat forgetfulness or be more mindful of what needs to be done. If you have health conditions such as diabetes or an issue with your thyroid, you will also need to keep routine in your day.

If you have any mental health conditions at all, you will want to engage in wellness activities that can help you here. Ensure that you have an established support system around you that can help. Having a lot of love around you can help you to feel less anxious and depressed on any given day. It is estimated that as many as one in five Americans suffers from a mental health issue.

Talk to your doctor or a professional for help and coping strategies. You may be able to overcome some of the simplest symptoms of forgetfulness or absent-mindedness with a prepared strategy in place to overcome it. Bring other elements of wellness into your daily life. Eat a well-balanced diet regularly, and keep it as healthy as you can.

Part of your routine should include regular meals every day. Eating fuels the body and the brain, and can significantly help you with any symptoms of forgetfulness that you may have. You may also want to include supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins to help you stay healthy. Maintain an active lifestyle when you can, as a simple walk outdoors can help to refresh and invigorate the brain in a way that keeps your mind alert and focused every day.

Don’t be afraid to try new things and learn new skills as you are adjusting to deal with forgetfulness or something more. Having a joy for life is an important part of dealing with these symptoms. Pick up a new hobby or join a new club. Being around people will significantly help you to feel adjusted and connected to the world, which will help with forgetfulness.

Implement changes into your every day. You may want to start writing down everything that you need to do on a given day. Write your agenda every day and leave it in the same place all the time. Make it part of your structured routine to create this itinerary every day.

Keep your home uncluttered and tidy. If you are unable to do this on your own, hire someone to come in on occasion and help you with the larger tasks. If you know you may not remember to sweep the floors, hire someone that comes on a regular schedule or date that can help. A cluttered home will make it more difficult to find things, and this is a key symptom of forgetfulness, and also a key symptom that causes stress and anxiety that negatively impacts life.

Another thing that you can do is to keep your medications in an organizer. You may also want to perform some mental exercises such as visualization or memorization. Keep your brain active with brain apps and games that can help you to stay alert. Give your brain some of these exercises every single day.

Prevent Stress With Memory Loss

The simple fact is that it may be difficult to prevent memory loss altogether. A head trauma or disease that results in cognitive impairment is not likely to be permanently treated. It is difficult sometimes to pinpoint the main causes of forgetfulness, as there are so many. If you know the cause of forgetfulness or something more with a loved one, be sure to restrict activities away from those causes. 

Signs of forgetfulness can be very sad and difficult to deal with on your own. Create a support system that can be there for you when you are dealing with this. Get support when you need it, and you can prevent some of the stress that comes with memory loss.

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Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

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