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Living with Memory Loss

The Benefits of Memory Screening and Early Detection of Memory Problems

As you or your loved ones grow older, you might find yourselves becoming a little forgetful. Some memory loss is a normal part of the aging process. There are, however, certain behaviors that may be early warning signs of something more serious. It is important to identify memory problems, as some are readily treatable and others are easier to treat if diagnosed early.
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Common medical conditions that can cause memory problems:

There are a number of medical conditions that can cause memory issues, and many are easily treated, managed, or cured under medical supervision. Examples include:

  • vitamin deficiencies
  • thyroid issues
  • depression
  • medication side effects
  • urinary tract infections

Benefits of early detection of dementia-related memory loss:

Memory problems could also also be related to dementia-related illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are a number of benefits to early detection. Importantly, early detection can significantly improve one’s quality of life for a number of reasons. First, it can offer the person the opportunity to take advantage of treatments that may slow the changes in memory and thinking skills or participate in a clinical trial. This in turn may help a person with dementia live independently longer. Other benefits according to the Alzheimer’s Association include:

  • The opportunity to try out FDA-approved drugs that can lessen the symptoms, including memory loss and confusion
  • The chance to make lifestyle decisions that may slow cognitive decline
  • May help reduce anxiety associated with unexplained memory issues
  • The chance to maximize time with family and others important to you
  • Access resources and support groups
  • More time to plan for the future and share your wishes with loved ones, keeping you in control

What to expect in a memory screenings:

A memory screening is a simple and safe “healthy brain check-up” that tests memory and other thinking skills. It is important to understand that these screenings do not diagnose dementia or Alzheimer’s. They simply determine whether or not further testing is necessary. During a memory screening appointment, a qualified health professional will spend about 10 minutes with you or your loved one. The screening professional will utilize one of several accepted memory assessment tools to ask a series of questions and assign minor tasks. The objective is to evaluate memory, language skills, and critical thinking skills. After the exam is completed, the screening professional will share their findings. It might be they don’t detect any memory problems or concerns or it could be they recommend you see a primary care physician for follow-up. The examiner will also provide a written report that explains the results of the testing.

How to get a memory screening:

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America offers free, confidential memory screenings virtually. You can learn more about this on their website. They also offer a simple and confidential online memory test that some may prefer as an initial step. Your primary care doctor is also an excellent resource for the screening itself and/or any follow up testing or care planning.

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