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Do I just forget? Or is it more serious?

By Jodi Knight, Speech Therapist | 

 jodiknight_thumbWait, what was I saying? Where did I park my car? What was that man’s name again? Everyone experiences forgetfulness at times. But, at what point should you be concerned about your memory or the memory of a loved one? We all have our moments of forgetfulness. Yet, there is a point at which memory issues begin to affect our lives and the lives of our loved ones. That happens when our ability to do what we typically do daily or what loves ones do daily is regularly thrown off track.

Cognitive changes (memory and thought changes) that are serious enough to be noticed regularly by the person experiencing them or someone close to them, may be a condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with MCI, especially MCI involving memory problems, are somewhat more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias than people without MCI. However, having MCI does not mean a person will develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. For many, MCI reverts to normal cognition or remains stable. Medication may even cause symptoms of MCI. What’s important is that people experiencing cognitive impairment symptoms get help as soon as possible for diagnosis and possible treatment.

As a speech-language pathologist specializing in cognitive evaluation and treatment of mild to moderate memory loss, I am a local resource for help. One way my training allows me to help is in something called brain training. Brain training is proven effective in improving a person’s memory, problem solving, communication and safety.

The process begins with an assessment, which identifies one’s personal strengths and challenges, discovers the ways a person learns best, and determines how memory deficits impact one’s life. Often, a person’s difficulty with memory and communication place strain on relationships with others. One’s family and friends may notice they’re participating less in their once cherished activities, in making decisions, or in conversation.

The treatment process also includes restoring greater memory, as well as creating strategies for compensating, offering ways to adapt one’s home environment, as well as providing necessary training of family caregivers. There are many factors that affect a person’s cognitive-communication ability, including socialization, physical activity level, cognitive activities, medication, and sleep habits. Each of these factors affects the brain and how it functions. The goal of cognitive-communication therapy is to determine areas of improvement to increase a person’s quality of life and to ease the stress and anxiety of the lives of caregivers.

Typical changes with memory:

  • Making a bad decision once in a while
  • Missing an occasional monthly payment
  • Forgetting the date, but remembering it later
  • Sometimes forgetting which word to use
  • Losing things from time to time

Not standard memory changes:

  • Consistent poor judgment and decision making
  • Loss of ability to manage money
  • Inability to keep track of the date or the season
  • Difficulty having a conversation
  • Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them

The causes of MCI are not yet completely understood. Many cases, though not all, are the result of brain changes occurring in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Growing older, family history of Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and conditions that raise risk for cardiovascular disease are all risk factors for MCI as well as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

If you or a loved one has symptoms of MCI, don’t delay. For further information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at alz.org or call them at 800-272-3900. Or, call to make an appointment with me at Southwest Health at 348-2331.

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