2/11/03 - Understanding Memory Loss


Understanding Memory Loss
By: Wendy Ray

Have you ever forgotten where you put your keys or lost your train of thought

? Sure, it's happened to all us, but when does simple absent-mindedness become a cause for concern?
Forgetfulness is common for all of us, but medical experts say it's not the same as memory loss. How can you tell the difference? By watching for some very distinct signs.

"Do you ever have trouble remembering what day it is or what day of the week it is?" registered nurse Kathy O'Howell says to a group of people. Linda Cox was in that group. She doesn't forget those things, but she admits, she does forget sometimes. "Sometimes I forget in the middle of the sentence what I was talking about. Sometimes I lose things and forget where I put them," she says.

Linda worries about her forgetfulness. But O'Howell, a nurse and a member of the Alzheimer's Associations Advisory Council, says almost all us can be forgetful, one time or another. "Part of that is in regards to aging, and part of it is we have so much on our minds, we kick the things out that are not as important," O'Howell says.

Occasional forgetfulness may be common, but how do you tell the difference between that and memory loss, like Alzheimer's disease? People with Alzheimer's usually show changes in their mood and behavior, and may have rapid mood swings. They also experience problems with their language, like forgetting simple words. Another sign, a change in the person's job performance.

A person with Alzheimer's forgets simple everyday tasks at work or at home. O'Howell says the best thing people can do is be aware of memory loss, and do something about it, if there's cause for concern. "Any change a loved one, family or friend sees, warrants asking a question," she says.

There are other things that can cause memory loss, like the wrong combination of prescription drugs or suffering a stroke. It's important to be aware of what you're taking and any signals your body is giving you to get on the right treatment to avoid any further memory loss.