Serious Memory Issues: Is it Time to See a Doctor?

Memory issues and forgetfulness are something we all face as we get older. It can be frustrating for elderly individuals as they struggle to find the right words, remember information and learn new things.

Last month, we talked about the less serious forms of forgetfulness, those that are brought on by emotional and some health issues. This month, we are going to talk about the more serious types of memory issues, including dementia, Alzheimer’s and amnestic mild cognitive impairment.

By looking at each of these individually, I’m hoping you can help friends or loved ones who might be dealing with serious memory issues.

Let’s start with dementia, which is not actually a disease but a group of symptoms that are caused by certain diseases or conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. When someone has dementia, they have a loss in their thinking, memory and reasoning skills to the point that they can’t carry out their daily activities.

According to an article about forgetfulness on, people with dementia lose their mental abilities at different rates, but the symptoms often include:

  • Being unable to remember things;
  • Asking the same question or repeating the same story over and over;
  • Becoming lost in familiar places;
  • Being unable to follow directions;
  • Getting confused about time, people and places;
  • Neglecting personal safety, hygiene and nutrition.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia and is caused by changes in parts of the brain that result in the death of nerve cells. It can begin slowly with simple forgetfulness.

As damage to the nerve cells spreads throughout the brain, the condition becomes worse and can lead to serious problems with judgment, thinking, the ability to perform daily activities such as driving a car, and recognizing family and friends.

Another common form of dementia is known as vascular dementia, which is caused by a stroke or blockage of blood supply to the brain. Symptoms usually begin suddenly and can affect a person’s mood, personality, memory, language, reasoning and coordination.

Unfortunately, these two types of dementia cannot currently be cured.

Mild cognitive impairment – or amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – can be another cause of forgetfulness. People with amnestic MCI have symptoms that are less severe than those of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, they are usually able to perform their normal daily activities.

Memory lapses, such as forgetting appointments or important events, word finding difficulties and losing things frequently, are signs that someone may have amnestic MCI.

Individuals with any serious memory issues should be seen by their doctor, so the condition can be diagnosed, questions can be answered, and physical and behavioral problems (such as wandering or agitation) can be treated and managed as best as possible.