o matter what age we are, it’s common to forget things from time to time. That moment when we need to introduce someone and much to our horror draw a complete mental blank over their name. Or forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home from work.
Reasons for this kind of occasional forgetfulness could be as simple as not getting enough sleep, stress, anxiety, or even an infection. It could be the medication we are taking, which might include antidepressants and antihistamines, or maybe nutritional factors such as vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Deficiencies in Vitamins B1 and B12 for example, are known to affect memory. Strokes and any serious injury to the head, and therefore brain, can also alter our short- and long-term memory.
However, when our memory, and our short-term memory in particular, begins to fail us on a regular basis and affects our ability to carry out everyday tasks that we once did without even thinking, it important to eliminate Alzheimer’s as being the cause.
When problems with memory go beyond normal forgetfulness, these are some typical symptoms that need to be discussed with your health care professional as they may be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s:
- Inability to retain new information
- Repeatedly asking the same question, or continuously recounting the same thing over and over again
- Forgetting significant dates such as your child’s or partner’s birthday
- Relying on family and friends to prompt you on how to carry out everyday tasks, or having to put reminder notes to yourself around the house to feed the cat, for example.
I always made a point of ringing my parents at the end of the day for a quick chat and to check they were okay, even if we had already seen each other during the day. It became apparent that something wasn’t right when Mum would ring me soon quite soon after we’d just spoken to each other and say rather accusingly, “I thought we might have heard from you!” No amount of explaining could persuade her that we had only spoken maybe an hour ago as she was convinced we hadn’t spoken in days!
And then Mum forgot that she had just eaten. When we went out and the remnants of her lunch were still in front of her, Mum would ask for more food saying she was hungry and hadn’t eaten. In one sitting, my Mum, who had always been a slim person, would be able to tuck into a couple of meat pies, a muffin, a piece of cake and two cups of coffee!
Finally, it came to the year when Mum forgot my birthday. Birthdays were always a special time in my family and to have your mother completely forget that most significant of days was a very poignant and sad day for me. It was the most poignant reminder that I was losing Mum and as much as I didn’t want to believe it, she really was living with Alzheimer’s disease.