Significant memory loss or dementia is not a normal part of aging. Memory loss that affects a person’s functioning in daily life should be evaluated as early as possible if a problem is suspected. In addition to memory loss, certain neurobehavioral conditions may affect a person’s ability to think or speak clearly, or cause changes in behavior.
With many of these conditions, it is possible to slow the disease process and make accommodations in lifestyle to improve overall quality of life for patients and families. Early intervention is best. Alzheimer’s disease is just one cause of memory loss. Impairment may also be caused by brain disorders such as stroke, thyroid problems, depression, and drug interactions.
Diagnosis of memory loss or cognitive decline is determined through a thorough physical and neurological exam and a series of relatively simple tests to assess memory and thinking skills.
Signs of memory loss and cognitive impairment are varied, however, a common feature is that new memories cannot be efficiently learned. Often, old memories remain vivid because they have been stored widely throughout the brain, while newer memories are not retained because the specific area of the brain which processes them may be declining. Some signs of memory loss include:
- Gradual memory decline
- Confusion and inability to perform routine tasks
- Problems with judgment
- Difficulty reasoning
- Getting lost or disoriented easily