Can’t find your keys? Not sure where you put your glasses? Most people have been there — occasional memory lapses are normal. But memory loss that affects your senior loved one’s quality of life and their ability to live independently may be a sign of a serious medical condition. It can be terrifying to imagine that your aging parent someday might not remember who you are or could forget cherished moments you shared together.
Age, genetics, and other factors can increase someone’s risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But research shows that certain steps can help lower the risk of memory loss associated with these cognitive conditions. Read on to learn how simple lifestyle changes can help prevent memory loss and improve memory.
Many things can cause memory loss. Age is a key factor, as the normal aging process causes a slight decline in brain function. With age, connections between brain cells that store and transfer information are weakened, affecting memory.
Talk with a Senior Living Advisor
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
Cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are progressive conditions that cause severe memory loss over time. Many factors can increase your loved one’s risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s, including age, family history, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking.
About 10% of people who have a stroke and nearly one-third of those who have a second stroke develop dementia. Heart disease and fat buildup in the arteries also contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.
Other causes of temporary memory loss in elderly adults may include medications, infections, vitamin B-12 deficiency, depression, and excessive alcohol consumption.
Occasional forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. Examples of memory loss that comes with age include forgetting to pay a bill one month or not remembering what day it is. However, memory loss that affects your ability to do everyday activities can be a sign of a serious problem.
Signs of memory problems in elderly adults that warrant a visit to the doctor may include:
Staying mentally, physically, and socially active may lower the risk of memory loss, according to the National Institute on Aging. Although you can’t change your parent’s age or family history, you can encourage them to make lifestyle changes that may help prevent memory loss or improve memory.
Larson E.B. “Risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia.” https://www.uptodate.com/contents/risk-factors-for-cognitive-decline-and-dementia.
National Institute on Aging. “Brain health.” https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/topics/brain-health.
Angelike Gaunt is a content strategist at A Place for Mom. She’s developed health content for consumers and medical professionals at major health care organizations, including Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the University of Kansas Health System. She’s passionate about developing accessible content to simplify complex health topics.