Some Memory Loss Is Normal: Age-Related Memory Loss Should Not Cause Alarm

If your parents are approaching the golden years, you may notice memory lapses, often referred to a senior moments, and worry that they will soon be unable to care for themselves. Chances are, your fears are unfounded. There are natural changes in memory that can occur that may seem alarming to you, but  do not warrant the need for a full time caregiver or a move to a nursing home. If you are considering approaching the topic of inhome health care, a nursing home or an assisted living facility to your aging parent,because you have observed problems with their memory, make sure your parent really needs additional care and isn't simply showing signs of normal aging that is perfectly manageable at home.

What are normal age-related memory issues?

While it is true that some memory failure make it difficult for your parents to live on their own, some issues with memory are natural as they age and don't interfere with their ability to function or effect safety. According to HelpGuide, mild memory loss or memory issues are not considered a problem unless they interfere with your parent's ability to function normally and participate in their normal lifestyle or cause safety issues.  Consider these normal types of memory loss that can effect your parents without interfering with their safety or ability to live on their own.

  • Word Retrieval Problems: Some difficulty with word retrieval is a normal age-related memory loss. It is often the result of changes in the brain that make it more difficult to retrieve specific words. The difficulty is often overcome by pausing for a moment. In true memory loss with conditions like dementia, the words cannot be retrieved by pausing and thinking about it. If your parents takes longer to retrieve words, but eventually grasps the proper word, there probably isn't any reason for concern.
  • Difficulty Remembering Names: Like word retrieval, remembering names can become more difficult with age. Sometimes, the name of one person is replaced with the name of another. This too is a normal age-related memory issue. If your parents have difficulty remembering names, or call you by your siblings name, it probably isn't a cause for concern. The difference between this type of memory lapse and dementia or other conditions effecting memory is that your parent is not confused about who the person is, but simply suffers from a temporary glitch that causes them to recall the wrong name.
  • Repeating the Same Stories: Everyone repeats stories sometimes and your aging parent is no exception. If your parents tell the same stories about their childhood, or your childhood, every Christmas, it probably isn't a cause for concern. It is likely that your parents hold the stories dear and enjoy sharing them with you. However, if your aging parents repeat the same stories and scenarios within the same conversation or repeats it every time they talk to you, there may be cause for concern.

It can be alarming to watch your parents struggle to retrieve a word or hear them call people by the wrong name, but unless their memory issues interfere with their ability to care for themselves or otherwise participate in daily activities it isn't likely a sign your parents are ready for a nursing home. If you are unsure whether your parent's memory issues are normal or whether they signal a more serious condition, encourage them to talk to their doctor about it.