Are you worried about becoming more forgetful as you age? You may experience “Senior Moments” which is normal.  However, serious memory loss and confusion, as with Dementia—the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, — are not part of the normal aging process.  Remember, Dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms that are a result of problems with brain function (such as memory loss and behavior changes). The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the potential for dementia is real, there are medical conditions that can cause confusion and memory loss.  If the condition is properly treated memory will improve.

The most common cause of confusion and memory loss is infection.  Urinary tract infection and severe dehydration are at the top of the list.  Other medical conditions that may cause similar behaviors are medication overuse/underuse, stroke, poor nutrition, thyroid problems, depression, high fever, alcohol abuse, heart or lung disease, and head injury.

What do you do?  Make an appointment to see your primary care physician (PCP).  The doctor will ask questions and run medical tests to make sure the memory loss is not due to a medical condition that can be corrected.  The doctor will need a detailed description of the behaviors you are concerned about and when they started. Secondly, have a list of current and previous health problems.  Finally, bring all medications or a medication list (prescriptions, vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter medications) with you.

What does it mean?  The results of the visit and medical tests will determine if further testing is required.  Your PCP will make this determination and will refer you to a Geriatrician, Geriatric Psychiatrist, Neurologist, and/or a Neuropsychologist.  It might not be dementia, but unless you seek proper medical attention you will never know.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Valerie Taylor, BSN, RN, Senior Placement/Referral Specialist/ Nurse Consultant.