Expert Advice: Is forgetfulness part of aging, or a sign or dementia?
Host Amber Smith: Here's some expert advice from Dr. Sharon Brangman from Upstate Medical University. Is forgetfulness part of aging, or a sign of dementia?
Sharon Brangman, MD: That's one of the most frequent questions I get asked. People say 'I'm having senior moments,' and they're terrified that they have Alzheimer's disease. I think it's something that if you're concerned about, you should definitely pursue it. Go to your healthcare provider and get an evaluation.
Sharon Brangman, MD: But I can tell you that most people are on overload. They're multitasking. They have a lot of information to process. And they're trying to do too many things at once. However, if your memory problem starts to interfere with your ability to get through the day, then I would be concerned. If your a memory problem makes you start to have problems at work, so maybe you're late for meetings or you're not prepared, or you forgot to make important calls, then I would be concerned. If your behaviors change from what you used to do on a day-to-day basis, if maybe you're more withdrawn, and you don't want to participate in conversations with other people, or maybe you start to say things that come to your mind without filtering them and being appropriate, then I would be concerned. If it starts to impact some of the day-to-day things that you do, like driving, if you start to have problems, figuring out how to get to a place that is normally familiar, then I would be concerned.
Sharon Brangman, MD: So what we're looking for is a memory problem that also impacts your day-to-day functioning. And that's how we start to tell the difference between a memory problem that might just be due to being overloaded, over tired, multitasking versus one that might be more serious and needs further evaluation. However, what I want people to understand is that memory loss is not a normal part of aging. So there's always that thought that 'oh old people always get forgetful.' We may have changes in the way we process new information as we get older, but memory loss is not normal. So if you have a memory problem, you should go and get it evaluated.
Sharon Brangman, MD: You've been listening to chief of geriatrics, Dr. Sharon Brangman from Upstate Medical University.