Senior moment or dementia?

Has this ever happened to you? The car keys go missing, you can’t retrieve a once-familiar name or you’ve forgotten a phone number. You walk into a room with a purpose and then forget why.

In many ways, our memories shape who we are. They make up our internal biographies — the stories we tell ourselves about what we’ve done with our lives. They tell us who we’re connected to, who we’ve touched during our lives and who has touched us. In short, our memories are crucial to the essence of who we are as human beings.

Age-related memory loss, then, can represent a loss of self. It also affects the practical side of life. Forgetting how to get from your house to the grocery store, how to do everyday tasks, or how you are connected to family members, friends and other people can mean your ability to live independently. It is therefore no surprise, then, that declining thinking and memory skills rank among the top fears people have as they age.

We know that the ability to remember can fade with age. Many of these changes are normal, and not a sign of dementia. In fact, sometimes what people experience as a memory problem is really a “not-paying-attention” problem.

Statistically, only about 10 percent of the population develop dementia at some point in their lives. The possibility does increase with age and is common in very elderly individuals. However, it is not a normal part of the aging process.

What is common as people age is that the speed at which information can be retrieved on demand is slowed. Through most of our life, we had a wonderful gift. Information was retrieved instantly. As we age, we may lose a word that will be retained again, only not as quickly as when we were young. There are many causes for memory lapses. Here is a partial list:

The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former is not disabling. The memory lapses have little impact on your daily performance and ability to do what you want to do. Dementia, on the other hand, is marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities, such as memory, language, judgment and abstract thinking.

Remember, only approximately 10 percent of our population ever experience dementia. Most of us experience normal, age-related memory loss.

Bonnie Holmes is president of Loving Health Care Inc. Although the well-qualified caregivers care for clients with many different types of needs, the specialty of the company is clients with dementia. For more information, call (864) 916-9204.