When Should You See Your Doctor for Memory Loss?
My husband has memory loss. It is more advanced lately, so we finally went to see a neurologist.
It started out with memory lapses. Sometimes, Chuck asked the same question like “Where is the rake?” It would be where it always was, but I would tell him anyway. Then a few minutes later, after getting distracted for a moment, he would ask, “Where’s the rake?”
These memory lapses came more frequently, and then they got quite unsettling. I tried to joke about it, as I did when I wrote about this a few years ago. At the time, I thought one lapse was just bad driving. Now I know it was problems with paying attention – with staying in the moment. You can read about it here.
About three weeks ago, my husband visited a neurologist, as suggested by our doctor. I tagged along because it was important both of us hear what the doctor had to say. This was apparent by the time we got home because all Chuck heard was that he was fine.
His doctor asked him a series of verbal questions, designed to help him determine and diagnose Chuck’s situation. Afterward, the doctor had good news. He said it is not Alzheimer’s or dementia, but to rule out anything else like a brain tumor he ordered an MRI (which came back clear).
He also thought that Chuck doesn’t get enough quality sleep.
When to See Your Doctor About Your Memory Loss Fears
If you’re concerned about memory loss, see your doctor. He or she can conduct tests to judge the degree of memory impairment and diagnose the cause.
He or she will have many questions for you, and it is important to have a family member or friend along to answer some questions based on his or her observations. Questions such as:
How long have you had memory problems?
What medications do you take, including prescriptions, over the counter, and vitamins?
Have you recently been ill lately?
What medicine did you take?
What is your daily routine? How has your routine changed lately?
What tasks are difficult to perform?
What have you done for your memory problems? Have these helped?
Have you ever fallen and injured your head?
If you drink alcohol, how much do you drink daily?
Have you felt sad, depressed or anxious lately?
Have you experienced a major loss, change or stressful event in your life?
The questions are designed to help your doctor test your memory and other thinking skills. He or she may also order blood tests and brain-imaging tests like Chuck’s MRI that can help identify reversible causes of memory problems.
Your general practitioner may refer you to a specialist in diagnosing dementia or memory disorders, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist or geriatrician. This specialist will try to identify any reversible cause of memory impairment so that you get appropriate treatment.
Stress, anxiety or depression can cause memory loss and make a person more forgetful. Also, dealing with life changes can leave a person confused or forgetful.
Retraining the Brain
Chuck’s doctor made suggestions as to how to retrain the brain and how to help the brain retain new information. Below are a few of the suggestions:
Practice doing only one thing at a time and avoid distractions. Try to fully concentrate on whatever you do, practice staying in the moment and try not to think about what you need to do in the future or what you did in the past.
Say something out loud several times if you really need to remember it. Practice this, for example, by trying to remember the grocery list; but take it with you just in case.
Does anyone in your family suffer from memory loss? Would retraining the brain help or is it something more serious? What have you discovered from consulting with your doctor? Please share your experience in the comments.
Native Floridian Cindy Roe Littlejohn blogs at the Old Age Is Not For Sissies, where life is good and every day is an adventure. At 62 she is healthy, married, a mother to three, and grandmother of six. She is an author and writer, a tree farmer, and a retired lobbyist. She loves to travel on old trails, garden, do genealogy, spend time in the outdoors, and spend time with her family. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org