Want to Keep Your Memory Strong as You Grow Older?

Gone is the day when it was assumed that "senility" was part of aging. It is now generally accepted that while aging may cause some mild memory changes and mental slowing, there are things we can do to keep our brain strong, stave off dementia, and age well!   

The video below is a 1 hour talk with Dr. Erik Lande on how our brain changes as we age, and more importantly, what we can do to keep our thinking strong.

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Are My Memory Problems Abnormal?

While aging may cause some mild memory changes or other cognitive weaknesses, a large loss of mental functions is abnormal. Significant memory loss can be sign of dementia, but other thinking skills such as judgment and problem-solving ability are are also affected. If you are concerned about changes in your ability to think, to remember, or to concentrate, it is important to seek professional help.

Here we provide some basic information about warning signs of dementia and the process of neuropsychological assessment.

Is It Dementia?

1. Forget things more often? Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of Alzheimer's disease. However, forgetting things occassionally is normal.

2. Lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a phone call or playing a game? Difficulty performing familiar tasks can be related to dementia, although it is normal to occassionally forget what you planned to say or why you came into a room.

3. Forget simple words or substitute unusual words? Problems with language are a common symptom of Alzheimer's dementia. People with dementia may be unable to find the word toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth," although all of us sometimes have difficulty remembering the word we want to use.

4. Get lost in your own neighborhood? Forget where you are and how you got there? Disorientation to time and place is common in dementia, although it should be noted that all of us sometimes forget where we are going.

5. Has anyone told you lately that you dress inappropriately, or do you ever show poor judgment, like giving away large sums of money to telemarketers? Poor or decreased judgment is seen with dementia. It is normal though, to make a questionable decision from time to time.

6. Have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used? Problems with abstract thinking can be seen with dementia, although we all have trouble balancing a checkbook from time to time.

7. Put things in unusual places, like an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl? Temporarily misplacing things is normal, but permanently losing items or placing them in odd places is somewhat questionable.

8. Experience rapid mood swings, from calm to tears to anger, for no apparent reason? Changes in mood, behavior, or personality can be an early symptom of dementia. The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. It is normal to occassionally feel sad or moody.

9. Have you become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member? We all change somewhat as we age, but the personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically.

10. Have you become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual? Have you lost interest in your usual activities? We all feel weary at times from work or social obligagtions, but a loss of initiative can be a symptom of dementia.

Adapted from: "Do you know the 10 Warning Signs of Dementia?" The Alzheimer's Association website: www.alz.org

If you answered yes to any of these questions and are concerned about changes in your memory or your behavior, call us at (805) 988-6197 to discuss whether or not a neuropsychological assessment might be an appropriate way to address your concerns.

Dementia can easily go unrecognized in primary care. However, a neuropsychologist can reliably establish whether or not your forgetfulness is related to normal aging or dementia.

An early diagnosis of dementia means you can take advantage of medical treatment that might slow the progression of the disease. It also allows you to plan for the future while you still have the capacity to make important decisions about your life.

What is a neuropsychlogical assessment?

• An assessment of your thinking skills, including a clinical interview and examination of your attention, speed of information processing, executive functions, learning and memory, language skills, and visuospatial skills.

• It assists with diagnosis and provides a clear picture of your general strengths and weaknesses and the changes that can occur as a result of brain injury or illness.

• It provides in-depth, parent-friendly reports reviewed with you.

Is It Covered By Insurance?

In most cases, insurance will reimburse for neuropsychological assessment. It is important to check with your particular insurance provider to verify this.