Red flags of memory loss

Pre-emptive moves to help maintain your independence

14_fall_4lg (1)Who hasn’t left the TV remote control by the front door before? After all, teenage boys leave it in the refrigerator all the time. But how do you know the difference between everyday absentmindedness and progressive memory loss?

It’s a good idea to know the red flags so you and your family can take measures to mitigate negative consequences. First of all, when forgetfulness happens more often – like several times a day – that should get your attention. If you forget how to do something you’ve done for years – like cook lasagna, write a check or drive home from the grocery store – that’s another red flag.

The more you recognize these behaviors for what they are – and take pre-emptive moves to counter them – the better you’ll be able to maintain your independence.

Here are a few suggestions:

Leave yourself notes.

Post a sample completed check above your desk. Leave directions to your home in your car. Always have a friend, neighbor or family member’s phone number with you when you leave the house. Whatever things you tend to forget, leave yourself a prominent reminder note, in case it happens again.

Learn new activities to keep your mind sharp.

Play games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles, read or learn a new language. There are also various online “brain training” games that could help.

Engage with others.

It’s important for you to have daily social interaction with others to help ward off depression and isolation. This also helps your family from worrying about you – knowing others are aware of how you’re doing.

Be realistic about what you can do and get help.

Adult children may be prone to take extreme actions when all you really need is a little help. For example, if you find you’re getting lost while driving, honked at by other drivers or having near-accident close calls, look into a driver-on-call service to take you grocery shopping or to a doctor’s appointment.

Consult with trusted professionals and loved ones.

Often dementia causes people to buy things they don’t need, give away significant sums of money to salespeople or make repeated donations to organizations. Work with your financial advisor to set a spending limit that you will not exceed without running it by her or him first. Along the same lines, let your advisors and doctors know which people to contact, especially whomever holds powers of attorney for you, if they notice changes in your behavior or memory that you may not be aware of. They also should know who is legally authorized to be involved in your affairs if need be.

Get your finances and estate in order.

Set up your retirement income, long-term care and estate plans early on, while you’re of sound mind and body, and don’t make any changes or big money decisions without consulting your family and advisor(s) first.

Signs of memory loss can be frightening, but knowledge can be both powerful and comforting. Discuss any worrisome incidents with your doctor and find out more about how you can stay focused and learn ways to cope.

The information contained herein has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.