Memory Loss: Normal Aging or Cause for Concern?

By Shanna Hogan

Losing your car keys. Forgetting someone’s name. Mixing up words.  

Who among us has not experienced one or more of these mental miscues? Most often, they are just signs of mild forgetfulness that can be chalked up to normal aging.  

But, how can you tell the difference between normal age-related memory loss and signs of a more serious problem like mild cognitive impairment or dementia?

As a Sun Health Memory Care Navigator who helps individuals affected by memory loss and their loved ones, Marty Finley, M.Ed., hears this question almost daily. She offers the following examples to explain the difference:   

“We all lose our car keys once in a while, but if you’re frequently losing your keys, it may be more than normal aging,” Marty says. “Older adults may forget to pay a bill or occasionally forget an appointment. Someone with dementia, however, may not be able to reconcile a bank statement or remember what day, month or season it is.”

“As we get older, things slow down a little bit. It may take longer to retrieve information from the files of our brain to get that information,” she adds. “That’s normal aging. With dementia, the person never finds that information.”

Marty recommends that anyone who is concerned about memory issues should report their concerns to their primary care physician.

Sun Health launched its Memory Care Navigator program in 2015 to help clients, family members and caregivers navigate the emotional, psychological and physical effects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The program is offered to community members in the West Valley at no cost thanks to the generosity of Sun Health Foundation donors.

The navigators conduct in-person assessments, and based on their findings they develop an individualized plan for the person with dementia and his or her family. 

“Each person with dementia is different, so each home visit is different,” Marty says. “Each action plan is designed to meet their specific needs and their situation.”

In addition to meeting with clients and families, Marty teaches classes about various aspects of memory loss and brain health. 

For information on the Memory Care Navigator program, call (623) 832-9300.

Marty will talk about normal aging vs. dementia,
9:30 to 10:30 a.m., Friday, March 8.

Free brain-health checks offered by appointment.

The Banner Sun Health Research Institute (BSHRI) is providing free brain-health checks by appointment at the Institute, 10515 W. Santa Fe Drive, Building A, in Sun City. For information or to make an appointment, call (623) 832-5747. 

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