As you age, it is natural that your memory is not going to be as good as it used to be. If you have children, you may notice how well their memory functions. However, as you move further into adulthood, you may find that your memory is decreased. In fact, it is known that most people experience decreases in their ability to learn new things and remember them as they age.
Part of these changes in memory can be related to lack of attention as your focus is divided in so many different areas. For example, if you are a working parent, sometimes it can be overwhelming to remember all the appointments for the whole family. You need to know who needs to go where and when. That is why using a calendar becomes extremely important. These would be considered normal memory problems.
Another reason for the increased difficulty in remembering things as you age is also biological. The brain changes and those areas related to memory are also affected with mild impairments occurring in memory. The ability to process information and to react to it slows, as does the ability to multi-task. However, with a little more effort to learn and remember new things as you age, it is still possible.
However, it is important to note that the cognitive and biological changes seen in normal aging are not the same as those seen in abnormal cognitive changes that occur due to dementias such as Alzheimer’s, for example.
Here are some ways to identify normal forgetfulness from abnormal forgetfulness:
1. The passage of time
The passing of time is often to blame for decreased memory in normal aging. In other words, if you do not think about particular memories often, there is a greater chance of forgetting them. If the event was not of huge importance to you, there is also a greater chance of forgetting the details surrounding the event. This is normal. The memories that you call upon more often will be retained more easily. However, if you don’t use those memories, you lose them.
Abnormal forgetfulness, on the other hand, is when you cannot recall recent events such as what you ate for breakfast or who visited you that day.
2. Stressful events
If you are asked to recall events from a time of stress in your life, it is likely due to normal memory lapses. During times of stress, your brain has a harder time storing information.
If this is the second time that you tell your daughter the same story in two weeks, this is more likely due to normal forgetfulness. However, if you tell your daughter the same story during a visit lasting thirty minutes, that is not normal.
Normal forgetfulness includes not remembering the exact date but having a general idea of the time of the month, and the problem-solving ability to look the date up on the most recent edition of the newspaper you received that morning. Someone with abnormal memory will not even know what year it is.
5. Self-care abilities
If you experience some forgetfulness but are still able to remember to wash and dress yourself, to eat, to go to the grocery store, to take your medications (you may need to use a pillbox as a personal reminder), your memory is likely still within normal ranges for your age.
However, if you do not remember how to do these tasks or even that they need to be done, then that is abnormal.
It is normal to get lost in unfamiliar locations, such as when you are visiting a new area of your city. However, it is not normal to get lost and not remember familiar locations such as your own neighborhood or who your family members are.
7. Frustration levels
Someone with normal forgetfulness, is not likely to get angry or upset when reminded about something. People with abnormal forgetfulness will often display denial, anger, or defensiveness when reminded or when faced with questions that test their memory for dates, places, and more. They may even accuse you of stealing something that they lost and cannot locate.