While striving to maintain their independence, many seniors express a fear of losing their ability to process and think clearly.
We understand how aging changes everything. As a senior, you have already gone through a lot of changes in your life. Declining cognitive function is a change that we’d like to stave off as long as possible.
The reality is, your ability to think and reason will diminish to some extent as you age. That’s a part of growing older. Beyond that natural process, brain functioning can show signs of being impaired if you have ever been exposed to certain chemicals, pesticides or toxins, have diabetes or heart disease, are taking certain medications or have suffered a stroke.
No matter what brought on the impairment one of the most important things you can do is to recognize the symptoms of the damage and not ignore them as just another sign of aging. It’s important to recognize the various indicators of cognitive decline and, if necessary, keep a journal that you share with your doctor.
A change in memory that is more likely to be associated with dementia is progressive memory loss and a change in memory that is more likely to be associated with aging is a slower rate of processing information.
Changes in memory associated with aging are also more likely to entail a decline in learning new information but little change should be noticeable with retaining memories. Family members are often are the first ones to notice a loved one’s changes in memory function. It’s important for both the senior and family members to be aware of the signs.
These signs can include:
- Changes with retaining new information such as trouble remembering events
- Handling complex tasks that were once easier to do such as balancing a checkbook
- Changes with reasoning such as inability to cope with unexpected events
- Changes in spatial ability and orientation such as getting lost in familiar places
- Changes in behavior
Other causes of memory changes to keep in mind when noticing these are diagnoses such as Vitamin B12 deficiency and hypothyroidism. Your doctor also might want to perform a urinalysis because a urinary tract infection can cause changes in behavior or memory in older adults. A depression screen might also be performed as it is a common treatable co-morbidity of dementia and it can also masquerade as dementia. Because dementia is a long-term diagnosis, your primary care provider will perform variable diagnostic tests where needed to rule out any other treatable diagnosis that could be causing changes in memory.
In order to help you cope with any of the indicators you may be experiencing you should work with your physician to develop a program that will help you stay fully functioning and help you realize that you can enjoy your independence for as long as possible by doing a few simple things.
By exercising daily and maintaining a healthy weight your physical health will have a huge affect on your mental well-being. Add a healthy diet to your physical exercise and your cognitive functions will maintain their current level or improve.
If you aren’t already, you must engage in as much mental activity as you can. Do things like reading daily, playing mental games, doing word or logic puzzles, or finding a craft you can enjoy daily while staying as stress-free as possible.
This will make fighting cognitive impairment easier. And, don’t forget your social life. Research has shown that by remaining socially active you not only help yourself maintain your mental functioning you also help your friends and family maintain their intellectual capacity as well.
- Larson, E. (2016, August 03). Evaluation of cognitive impairment and dementia. Retrieved https://www.uptodate.com/contents/evaluation-of-cognitive-impairment-and-dementia?source=search_result&search=cognitive%20impairment&selectedTitle=1~150