Busyness and stress can sometimes cause us to have memory problems no matter how old we are. Stress can cause much younger people to forget at times. It can be difficult to know whether we, or one of our loved ones, are in the early stages of dementia or if we just have too much on our mind. We can even wonder if we are doomed to follow the path of our parent(s) or other family members.
I’m writing this in the first person because recent events in our life have caused several of us to become more forgetful than usual, but we also realize that it could mean much more. It seems that forgetfulness can creep up on us without our realizing it until either we, or someone else, notices enough that we need to check with our doctor. Scary thought, I assure you.
As a caregiver during Dad’s last days, I found myself forgetting what used to be easy to retain due to stress of his situation. Now, though, I sometimes can’t even complete a sentence. Or, I have to write down on a calendar everything someone tells me about our plans and appointments.
Early Onset Dementia
The scary thing is that my mother started doing the same thing at a point in time. She was somewhere in her late sixties or early seventies. She kept everything on her monthly calendar and kept it by her side most of the time. As her dementia grew worse, we could see by her writing that she tried to enter something on a certain date but didn’t finish even the word at times. She also started filling in wrong dates for birthdays of family members. That’s when we really realized the worse was happening and it was not just occasional forgetfulness.
I’m in my upper sixties. I’ve had several conversations with my daughter lately and then would completely forget what she told me about her doctor’s appointments or even an upcoming trip out of state for a few days. I used to have a very good memory and we are used to me being on top of what is going on in the family. Now, we can carry on a conversation about our plans for the week and I totally drop the ball within hours.
Last night it really hit me when she stopped over and I said, “Let me write this down.” We had been discussing much of this information for weeks, but I kept getting some of the dates mixed up. I grabbed my monthly calendar and we went over everything going on for the next month. I could see her looking at me as I wrote our doctor’s appointments, her trip, her upcoming surgery, our upcoming move from Michigan to Texas, and Dad’s graveside service – all within the next month. The last two are on the same day!
I could see the concern in her eyes that Mom wasn’t remembering as well as she used to. I had that same feeling when my own mother was losing ground.
Consider Testing for You or Your Loved One
I’m sharing this to let you know that everyone can forget once in a while, and when under stress the forgetfulness can become more of a chronic nature. But as we are aging, we also need to be aware that maybe there is a problem and we need to look into it.
Dad was tested several times over the years by doctors and nurses who asked a series of questions that were to help determine if he had dementia. He did pretty well on the first one when he was in his mid-eighties, but several years later he didn’t do so well. He was in his upper eighties and it was no surprise that his memory wasn’t as good as in the past. By the time he was in his late eighties, he was officially diagnosed with dementia.
Experts say that if people live long enough they are more than likely going to end up being diagnosed with some form of dementia, although not everyone will. There are some people who are over 100 years old who are still pretty sharp.
Dementia is Sneaky
Dementia has a way of sneaking up on a person and it is good to stay on top of what is going on in your own life and that of your loved ones if you have any reason to think your, or their, memory problems are more than natural depending on what is going on in your life.
I’m providing a link that will give you the seven stages of Alzheimer’s and can be useful for possible dementia as well. Alzheimer’s is only one kind of dementia – there are many more. Hopefully, you can take a look at the stages and symptoms to help you decide whether you have grounds for concern.
Keep in Touch with Your Primary Care Physician
If you do, please contact your doctor for an honest discussion. You may want to bring a trusted family member or friend with you to take notes and make sure your questions are answered. My appointment is set for two weeks from now. Hopefully, it’s just the stress I’m under with everything we have going on right now, but if not, I want to know so I can move on from there.
When you click on this link, you will be taken to the Alzheimer’s.org site that lists the stages and further details about each stage as follows:
“Alzheimer’s symptoms vary. The stages below provide a general idea of how abilities change during the course of the disease.”
- Stage 1: No impairment
- Stage 2: Very mild decline
- Stage 3: Mild decline
- Stage 4: Moderate decline
- Stage 5: Moderately severe decline
- Stage 6: Severe decline
- Stage 7: Very severe decline
It’s better to know the truth than to deny something is wrong. I know that according to our family history on my mom’s side, there is a strong possibility of early onset dementia. That’s not saying this is the case – I could just have a lot on my mind and hopefully have inherited my father’s genes. Only time will tell.