How to Monitor Memory Loss
• Some memory loss and forgetfulness are normal during ageing, what are the best ways to identify abnormal memory loss?
• Both at-home and in-medical-office techniques are useful for monitoring memory loss, learn the benefits of each.
Some memory loss and cognitive decline are a normal part of ageing, but when these changes continue to worsen, they can indicate the beginning of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
When does “normal” memory loss become Alzheimer’s or dementia, and how can we tell?
The best way to monitor this progression is to begin the conversation with your physician and your close friends and family; and to work together with them to track these changes in order to begin treatment as early as necessary.
The earlier the disease can be treated, the more mental ability can be retained.
While perhaps the easiest, self-monitoring is one of the least reliable forms of monitoring. Often our biases tend to significantly influence how we perceive our mental state. Individuals whom are concerned about forgetfulness will perceive and recall moments of forgetfulness while individuals who believe they are not forgetful will find ways to explain or dismiss moments of forgetfulness.
Regardless of reliability, self-monitoring is one important part of any discussion with your medical team. Individuals noticing increased levels of forgetfulness should record it and reference it in discussions with family members and physicians.
Family and Close-Friends Monitoring
While conversing with friends and family about memory loss can be an emotionally-challenging subject, their observations often provide a valuable context. Close friends and family are often the first to notice changes in our mental well-being and generally are not impeded from the same biases present in self-monitoring. Individuals proactively managing memory loss should discuss their concerns with friends and family and create a dialogue where others not only feel comfortable speaking up, but feel a duty to do so.
Genetic testing, especially for individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia, can show the likelihood that an individual may develop the disease. A genetic profile indicating a higher risk of Alzheimer’s can both explain changes in mental ability and also prompt higher-risk individuals to make changes to reduce their overall risk.
Self-monitoring, peer-monitoring, and genetic testing provide a valuable context which medical professionals use to evaluate an individual’s overall state. At-home monitoring can provide a physician with the information needed to begin treatment earlier; and earlier treatment translates to a greater retention of memory and cognitive ability.
Beginning this conversation with physicians and close friends and family is a crucial first step in treating memory loss as soon as possible.