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Distinguishing Normal “Senior Moments” From More Worrisome Memory Lapses

- Thursday, February 25, 2010

As we age occasional memory lapses, such as forgetting why you walked into a room, can't find your keys, or having difficulty recalling a person’s name, become more common as we approach our 50s and 60s. It’s comforting to know that this minor forgetfulness is a normal sign of aging, not a sign of dementia. In fact it's a good sign and normal if we joke about our memory loss.

But other types of memory loss, such as forgetting appointments or becoming momentarily disoriented in a familiar place, may indicate mild cognitive impairment. In the most serious form of memory loss, dementia, people often find themselves disoriented in time and place and unable to name common objects or recognize once familiar people.  Also, other signs of dementia are losing sense of time or even what day it is, forgetting someone you knew well, and trouble learning/retaining new information.

There are plenty of resources out there to read on this topic. When Doctors get involved they start by looking for conditions that are correctable or treatable. If these possibilities can be eliminated, then more serious, irreversible dementias – such as Alzheimer’s disease -- are considered.