It doesn’t matter what age you are there are times when you will have forgotten where you have put the car or house keys. You may even have forgotten someone’s name or a phone number. This is normal and can happen to anyone, modern lives are busy and there can be too many things going on to remember every detail.
However, when this happens to older people the assumption is instantly that it is age related or the onset of Alzheimer’s / Dementia. In fact memory loss is not an inevitable part of aging and it is important to understand the difference between Alzheimer’s dementia and Normal Aging:
It is a fact that as you age, your brain activity changes and your mental responses slow. This can mean that you are unable to recall a familiar name or place. This is not age related memory loss but simply the change in brain processes. Give yourself a few moments and you will recall the information.
Brain cells can be produced at any age, these are not something that disappear and cannot be replaced. The brain is an organ but in many ways it functions like a muscle; if you do not use it then it will weaken. Regular mental exercise is essential for reproducing brain cells and remaining healthy.
Memory loss is caused by the deterioration of the hippocampus; this is the part of the brain which stores and retrieves memories. It is also influenced by a natural decline in the nutrients produced by the body to stimulate and repair brain cells. This is also because older people tend to be less able to absorb nutrients into their bodies. As you become less active it is also common for blood flow to decrease to the brain and this can affect its ability to perform.
Normal, age related memory loss is an ability to remember some things; this can come and go depending upon the situation and the available stimuli. Dementia is a continual decline in memory ability combined with an increasing inability to perform daily tasks. It is generally defined as a marked decline in two or more of a person’s intellectual abilities – such as memory and judgment. There are clear differences in your ability to do something when you have age related memory loss as opposed to dementia or even Alzheimer’s:
• Independent function – this is perfectly possible with age related memory loss; albeit with a few lapses in memory along the way. This is not possible with dementia where there will be difficulty undertaking many tasks even when you have completed them hundreds of times in the past.
• Recalling Forgetfulness – If you can recall your memory lapse then it is age related, if you are not aware that you have had a memory lapse then it is Dementia or similar.
• Location – As you age and your brain slows you may need to pause and get your bearings, even when in a familiar place. This is normal but if you are unable to follow directions or get lost in a familiar place then it is likely that you have the onset of dementia.
• Conversations – Age will mean that you forget odd words but it will not stop you from holding a conversation. Dementia will; many words become forgotten and often the same phrase or story is repeated numerous times – in the same conversation.
• Making Decisions – Age related memory loss will not affect your key skills of decision making or even common sense. Those who are suffering from dementia will struggle to make sensible decisions and have poor judgment. This will probably develop into an inability to conduct themselves appropriately in social situations.
It is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, physical activity, a good diet and regular mental activity will help to stave off any memory related problems. If you do suspect you or your loved one has an issue then you should seek professional help at the earliest opportunity. Dementia is an incurable disease that can’t be hidden from the people you loved most. Sooner or later it will become obvious that you’re forgetting things you shouldn’t. Rather than hide this from your loved ones, it’s always best to seek assistance.
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
Nearest Railway Station – Elephant & Castle
Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45