Forgetfulness: Is it Covid-19, Normal Aging or Something Else?
In a world afflicted with the coronavirus, many of us are working from home, managing our lives under lockdown and worrying about the health and safety of ourselves, our families and our communities. We are all feeling a bit more stressed than we were just a few months ago, and this may be causing our memories to be a bit foggy. I seem to be misplacing my glasses and my phone more often and I can never keep track of which day it is. Stress can do that. It can impair your memory. But how do we know if our forgetfulness is a just a fall-out of our current situation, a part of normal aging or something more serious?
As we get older, changes occur in all parts of our bodies, including the brain. Subtle memory changes are a natural part of the aging process. So, is forgetfulness a normal part of aging? The short answer is yes and no. Not all older adults have memory issues, but some do. There is a difference between normal changes in memory and memory loss associated with dementia. Forgetting where we put our glasses is normal, but forgetting what our glasses are used for is not. Memory loss that begins suddenly or interferes with our ability to function in daily life can be a sign of trouble.
Treatable causes of forgetfulness
Not all forgetfulness is a sign of dementia. There are some treatable causes of forgetfulness.
- Reaction to medications
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Thyroid disease
- Lack of sleep
The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 things to watch for:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
If you have concerns about your forgetfulness, talk with your health care provider. Only a qualified and experienced health care provider can diagnose dementia. Getting an early diagnosis gives you the opportunity to learn about the latest information, resources and support services, what treatment plans are available, how to make your wishes known for your long-term care, and how to prioritize and focus on what’s most important to you.
Tips to help manage our stress
No one knows when the pandemic will be over or when things will be back to normal, but managing stress can help your memory.
- Stay informed, but limit your exposure to the news
- Eat a balanced diet
- Get plenty of sleep
- Get outside and be active
- Be creative: cook, organize photos, garden, color
- Breathe: practice deep breathing several times a day
With all of the changes in our routine, physical distancing from our usual support people and the uncertainty of it all, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and afraid. But if you forget what day it is or where you laid your glasses, take a few deep breaths and relax. If you feel that your memory is impacting your life, seek help. We’ll get through this together.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay connected.