As frightening and frustrating as it can be, losing your edge a little bit is a natural part of aging. In the same way that you can’t manage the physical things that were easy for you when you were younger, experiencing some mild forgetfulness is just something that everyone experiences as they get older. However, many people wonder if having a hard time keeping track of your glasses or forgetting important dates now and then is a sign of something else going on. Dementia and Alzheimer’s specifically are a big worry for many older adults, and it can be hard to keep from panicking when you realize you’re not as sharp as you used to be. However, just because you’re experiencing some forgetfulness does not necessarily mean that you’re in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. The warning signs of the disease are quite a bit more specific and noticeable than occasionally misplacing your keys. Here are some of the big ones to look out for.
Asking the Same Questions Repeatedly
In Alzheimer’s disease, the newest memories are the ones to go first, while the older ones hang on longer. This is why people with Alzheimer’s sometimes think that they’re younger than they are or living in a place they lived earlier in their life. If your loved ones notice that you’re repeating the same statements or questions over and over without remembering that you’d already talked about them, it could be a sign that something more serious is going on.
Getting Lost in Familiar Places
Even someone who never struggles with their cognition can get turned around in an unfamiliar area, but if you’re finding yourself getting lost in places that you know very well, it could be a sign of mental decline. If you’ve lived in a place for a long time and are suddenly having trouble finding your way to the grocery store where you’ve always done your shopping, for example, that’s something to talk to your doctor about.
Having Trouble Following Directions
Alzheimer’s isn’t purely a problem with memory– at its root, it’s an issue with how your brain functions, and your ability to follow instructions is a good benchmark for how your brain is doing. If you’re finding it challenging to follow recipes, for instance, when you didn’t previously have issues in that department, or completing tasks when you’ve been given a list of instructions, it might be an early sign of dementia.
Forgetting the date here and there or not being 100% sure what day of the week it is when someone springs the question on you is usually not a cause for alarm, but if you’re regularly getting confused about dates, times, and people, it’s worth taking a closer look at.
Trouble Taking Care of Yourself
A slip in your personal hygiene and ability to take care of yourself is a common sign that medical professionals look for when screening for Alzheimer’s and other mental illnesses. If you’re forgetting to bathe, eat, or in one way or another behaving unsafely, it’s something to discuss with your doctor.
These warning signs are good benchmarks to look out for that will help you judge whether the forgetfulness you’re experiencing is a normal part of aging or something different. Regardless of whether you’re at risk for Alzheimer’s or not, there are some things you can do to help yourself stay sharp, and it’s a great idea to work them into your daily life! Here are some good ones.
Follow a Regular Routine
Sticking to a regular daily routine has tons of mental health benefits. Try to get up and go to bed close to the same time every day, keep regular mealtimes, and have a bit of time for some physical exercise scheduled in!
Try to Learn a New Skill
Nothing helps to keep your brain active like forging new neural pathways. If you’ve been meaning to pick up a hobby your whole life, now is the time to do it! Learn to knit, bake, play an instrument, code, you can even learn a new language. It will only help to keep your brain healthy!
Be Active in Your Community
Whether it’s your place of worship, a local charity, nearby schools, or book clubs, finding some way to be socially active is always smart for older adults. It can help to stave off the loneliness and depression that can be a risk of getting older, and it gives you something to keep your mind occupied and your brain active!
It’s always better to know. Getting a memory screening will help you to know for certain if your forgetfulness is something you need to be paying closer attention to, and whether you’re at risk for developing Alzheimer’s down the line. You can get a screening done at The Lehigh Center for free, and see a board-certified physician for free as well. Click here to learn more.