Have you been worried about an older person’s memory or thinking abilities?
Maybe your parent has seemed more confused recently. Or you may have noticed that your aging spouse is repeating herself, or struggling to do things that didn’t use to pose much of a problem.
These are very common concerns, and they often lead to questions such as:
- Is this normal aging or something more significant?
- What is wrong?
- Could this be Alzheimer’s? Or some other form of dementia?
- Can this be treated or reversed?
- What should we do about this??
The answer to the last question is this: if you are worried about memory or thinking, then you should seek out some kind of medical evaluation.
That’s because when families worry about an older person’s cognitive abilities, there often are some underlying health issues affecting the mind’s function.
Those need to be detected, and treated if at all possible. So, you’ll need to request help from a health professional, and in this article, I’ll explain what that initial help should consist of. This way you’ll know what to expect, and what the doctor might ask you about.
Technically, these kinds of problems are called “cognitive impairment.” This is a broad term that means some kind of problem or difficulty with one’s memory, thinking, concentration, and other functions of the conscious brain, beyond what might be expected due to normal “cognitive aging.”
(For more on “cognitive aging” and what types of changes are considered normal aging, see this article: 6 Ways that Memory & Thinking Change with Normal Aging, & What to Do About This.)
Cognitive impairment — which is also called “cognitive decline” — can come on suddenly or gradually, and can be temporary or more permanent. It may or may not keep getting slowly worse; it all depends on the underlying cause or causes.
In this article, I’ll share with you the more common causes of cognitive impairment in older adults.
I’ll then share a list of 10 things that should generally be done, during a preliminary medical evaluation for cognitive decline in an older adult.