Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone and blanked on a person’s name or the name of a place or thing? It seems to be a common occurrence among older adults.
For example, I recently heard a story about a lady who had just received an annual delivery of salmon filets. She was relieved to see that each fish was intact, as the prior year’s shipment had some fillets with chunks cut out due to sea lions attacking and biting the salmon in the nets. While telling a friend how happy she was to get the fish in such good condition this year, her friend asked what had happened to them the year before. As she began to reply, she blanked on the word ‘sea lions’. So instead she said, “They were bitten by ground squirrels.
I can relate.
The significant difference between normal lapses – such as forgetting someone’s name and worrisome memory loss is determined by the impact it has on your ability to function—your ability to do the things you want to do.
Normal age-related forgetfulness
According to helpguide.org, the following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:
Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.
Occasionally forgetting an appointment.
Having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation.
Walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
Becoming easily distracted.
Not quite being able to retrieve information you have “on the tip of your tongue.”
On a good note, it turns out that our brains seem to be capable of producing new cells at any age, so just as physical exercise helps strengthen muscles, there are a variety of ways to strengthen our brains to improve cognitive skills as well as prevent memory loss.
My sister and I have developed our own test for determining whether or not a lapse indicates normal forgetfulness, or impending dementia. (Although we don’t remember ever forgetting anything.)
“It’s okay to forget where your keys are, it’s not okay to forget what your keys do.”
So remember, although frustrating, most age-related memory lapses
are not the same as dementia. I’ve decided that the next time I can’t remember what to call a particular noun, I believe will call it a ‘ground squirrel’.