Nurturing Life's Ageless Spirit.

10 Signs of Potential Memory Loss

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10 Signs of Potential Memory Loss 

How do you know when you or someone you love displays signs of memory loss?

It is common for adult children to look past signs of memory loss and justify changing behaviors because they don’t want to admit that it’s happening. This is common, and you are not alone. 

It’s important to watch for changes and catch memory loss early before safety is at risk. Tracey Franklin, RN, BSN, PHN is the Nursing Manager on the 3rd Floor of the Albert J. Hofstede Care Center at Catholic Eldercare. Tracey is an experienced, loving, and dedicated caregiver with years of experience caring for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. She knows the warning signs and has seen them at every level. 

The Alzheimer’s Association has documented the 10 signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and we turned to Tracey to share her knowledge and experience with each one: 

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
    It’s normal to forget to call someone back or miss something on the grocery list. However, when someone leaves dinner cooking on the stove to do something else and forgets to return to the stove, and the water boils over, that’s different. That kind of forgetfulness is dangerous, and it’s a warning sign for memory loss. 
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
    Making occasional financial errors is normal, but not paying bills for months is not. Some people are good at hiding their decline, so families don’t always notice until a situation makes it all too real. During a visit, a foreclosure letter is found on the table, or there’s a notice on the front door stating that the mortgage has not been paid for eight months. This emotional struggle is a common experience for many families, and the key to preventing it is early memory loss detection. 
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
    Needing help recording a television show is normal, but driving to the grocery store and ending up miles away without knowing how to get home is not. If a person struggles to make a meal or forgets to eat and drink, that’s not normal either and can lead to dangerous health situations. Dehydration affects all organs, including the brain. It kicks up quickly and can contribute to memory loss.
  4. Confusion with time or place
    People with memory loss lose track of where they are and what they’re doing. It’s normal to get confused about the day of the week but not the passage of time or the seasons. Most people with memory loss score low on a memory test, so it’s important to test regularly, as we do on the memory care floor at Catholic Eldercare. If a test score drops from a 5 to a 3, we know where we’re headed with a resident, and that’s important.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
    It’s important to note that a vision test should be the first step in diagnosing vision trouble so cataracts and other vision changes can be ruled out. If vision checks out okay, the color and contrast issues some people experience may be related to memory loss, causing problems with balance, trouble reading, and driving.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
    Sometimes older people have trouble finding the right word. That’s normal. But it’s not normal for them to stop mid-sentence and have no idea how to continue. Handwriting also declines with memory loss. It becomes scribble and makes no sense. Keep an eye on handwriting and watch for vocabulary struggles and odd conversations.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
    When you can’t find your keys because you forgot you changed your handbag, that’s normal. Losing your keys and finding them in the toaster or putting your checkbook in the dishwasher is not. It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to put things in unusual places without knowing how to retrace their steps to find them. Watch for this behavior.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
    When a person stops showering or brushing their teeth, it’s a warning sign. With memory loss, things that used to come naturally no longer do, and it can become dangerous, like leaving something in the microwave for too long and causing a fire. People with memory loss have also been known to use poor judgment and send money to a stranger who calls on the phone or invites a stranger into their home. Big warning!
  9. Withdrawal from social activities
    This covers all activities. If your mom loved watching Timberwolves games but no longer cares if they win or lose, that’s a warning sign. We’ve also seen ladies who have crocheted forever but no longer like it or want to do it. Socializing is difficult for people with memory loss because they can no longer follow a conversation.
  10. Changes in mood and personality
    When you know your loved one well, this should be somewhat easy to spot when face-to-face or over the phone. It’s normal to lose your temper occasionally, but when a typically calm person becomes increasingly angry, it’s a warning sign. At CEC, we often hear, “My mom never swore or lashed out before,” or “My dad has never flirted like this.” These can be warning signs.

    When you notice these changes in someone you love and feel they are at risk and possibly in danger, Catholic Eldercare is here to care for them with dignity in a safe environment. Tracey says it’s important to point out the differences between memory loss/dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. She also says, “Whatever diagnosis your loved one has received, my job is to help them have a wonderful life until the end of their life.”

    Visit us next month for more information on memory loss.