Forgetfulness or Something More Serious?

Older people often begin to notice a decline in their memory. But, they may not realize how much memory loss is “normal,” and what could be a sign of something more serious. We have outlined some symptoms that are likely signs of normal memory loss due to aging and provided a list of more serious symptoms. Use these as a guide, but do not rely on them alone. If you are concerned about your health, it is always a good idea to see a doctor. Forgetfulness or Something More Serious?

Signs of Normal Forgetfulness

  • Losing small things like glasses or keys
  • Occasionally forgetting people’s names
  • Occasionally forgetting words or phrases
  • Taking longer to learn new things
  • Occasionally forgetting a bill
  • Having trouble with complex, complicated tasks

Signs of Something More Serious

  • Forgetting close family members’ names
  • Trouble driving
  • Trouble doing normal household chores
  • Becoming lost in places that you have been before
  • Not bathing or eating well
  • Trouble with paying bills or maintaining finances
  • Confusion of places, times, and people
  • Cannot follow directions
  • Trouble speaking to others generally
  • Asking the same questions over and over again

Serious memory problems may be associated with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). MCI basically means that you have more trouble with memory than people who are similar in age. Those with MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Serious memory problems can also be a sign of other medical issues unrelated to the brain, such as blood clots, kidney problems, liver problems, depression, or an adverse reaction to medication. Even if you do not see a neurologist, then you should see some kind of doctor to determine the cause of your memory problems.

If you think are just suffering with forgetfulness, trying some new activities to help your memory may be beneficial. Try volunteering in the local community, taking a class, or learning a new skill. Spending more time with family and friends can also be helpful. You should also be sure that you are getting plenty of rest, exercise, and eating well.

Palm Beach Neurological Center offers free memory loss screenings, which can be very helpful if you are concerned about your memory loss. For more information, contact us at 561-282-5546.


Petersen, R.C., Smith, G.E., & Waring, S.C., et all (1999). Mild Cognitive Impairment: Clinical Characterization and Outcome. Arch. Neurol. 56(3): 303-308. doi:10.1001/archneur.56.3.303.


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