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Does my parent have dementia?: Noticing memory problems in aging parents

You and Your Aging Parents
Ruth Kandel

This blog is part of a year-long series aimed at addressing some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from family and adult children on the topics most concerning them regarding their aging parents or loved one. In 2012 Hebrew SeniorLife published the eBook "You & Your Aging Parent: A Family Approach to Lifelong Health, Wellness & Care," a compilation of answers from HSL geriatric experts in response to the many of the most frequently asked questions. We're reposting some of the most popular Q&A posts from our original eBook which was downloaded over 2,000 times. We're also adding new Q&As throughout the series that address topics not originally included in our eBook. Sign up to receive the blog series and download our original eBook at www.hslindependentliving.org

It is not uncommon to experience some memory loss as we get older.  Although your loved one may complain of memory problems, that does not mean they have dementia. Mild forgetfulness is part of normal aging and should not interfere with one’s ability to participate in everyday activities.

Common memory problems include difficulty remembering names and details of events. Also, there is a wide variability in rate and amount of decline so it is not helpful to compare your loved one with others.

In contrast, significant memory loss is not a part of normal aging. These symptoms, that are progressive over time, interfere with one’s everyday functional abilities. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out if a loved one’s memory problems are due to normal aging or dementia. If there is any concern, it is a good idea to consult a clinician who can often provide a diagnosis after a thorough evaluation.  If dementia is diagnosed, there are now medications available for treatment of the cognitive impairment as well as behavioral symptoms.

To download your copy of our “You and Your Aging Parent” ebook, visit our website, www.agingredefined.org.

Ruth Kandel, MD's picture

About the Blogger

Geriatrician, Hebrew SeniorLife, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School until December 2016

Ruth Kandel obtained her bachelor's degree from State University of New York, Buffalo and her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed a residency in internal medicine at Boston City Hospital and a geriatrics fellowship at Bedford Veteran's Administration Hospital/Boston University Medical Center. She provides inpatient primary care and is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Her academic interests include Alzheimer's disease, memory disorders, and...

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