September 2021

Don’t Forget to Talk About Memory Problems


Many of us worry about developing memory problems as we age. So it's surprising that less than half of adults with memory concerns have discussed them with a healthcare provider.

Older male person talking with younger male healthcare provider

It’s normal to become a bit absentminded as you get older, such as forgetting certain words or where you left your keys. Usually, these issues don’t signal a serious memory problem. But if these blips concern you, talk with your provider.

If you have memory problems that make it hard to do everyday activities, such as shopping, driving, or communicating, it's important to see your healthcare provider. While these symptoms can be caused by certain medicines, an infection, or depression, they can also be signs of a more serious memory problem, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Your provider can help you learn what’s causing the problem and how to treat it.

Prepare for your visit

Make an appointment with your provider to discuss your memory problems. Plan to bring the following to your visit:

●          All your medicines, including prescriptions and over-the-counter remedies

●          A list of your symptoms and when they occur. Try to be as specific as possible. For example, “When I go to the store, I spend a half hour searching for my car in the lot.”

If you are afraid you might forget what to bring, ask a family member or friend to help you get ready for the appointment—and maybe go with you.

What to expect at the visit

There is no single test that can diagnose memory problems. Your healthcare provider may do a full physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history.

Your provider may also run some tests, including:

●          Blood and urine tests to check for an underlying issue

●          A brain scan, such as an MRI scan or CT scan

●          Questions to check your thinking, language, and memory skills

Depending on the results, your provider will explain the cause of your condition and review possible treatment options. If your provider can't find a problem, they may refer you to a specialist.

Evaluate your memory

Take this quiz from the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Gonella, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2021
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