As we age, many of us will experience memory loss issues. However, these changes do not mean that we suffer from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. There are all kinds of reasons one may experience memory or cognitive problems. It is important to reach out to professional help and undergo proper medical and psychological assessment to determine the cause and extent of the memory and other cognitive problems. A thorough evaluation by a neuropsychologist is essential both in determining the specific diagnosis and in carefully designing the course of treatment. Assessment provides what is often referred to as a “baseline” – a snapshot of the person’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral status at a point in time, to which one can be compared as treatment progresses.
Some medical and even psychological conditions may result in memory problems that look like dementia, but effectively are not.
Moreover, some of these conditions cause memory problems that are reversible; when the medical condition is treated and eventually managed or eliminated, the memory problems go away.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.
There are specific mental functions that are specifically impaired when a person is diagnosed with dementia, such as memory, communication and language, attention and concentration, visual perception, and sensory/motor functioning.
Some of the most common problems that individuals report have to do with short-term memory, such as remembering appointments or conversations, keeping track of where things are, paying bills, or preparing meals. Individuals often report getting lost, forgetting pots on the stove, and mixing their pills. These experiences can be quite frustrating and can cause emotional turmoil to the individuals and their family members. For these reasons, ongoing support in the form of educational classes, psychotherapy, marital therapy, and support groups are very helpful.
While dementia is progressive (symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse), currently a cure is not available. Yet, numerous research studies and clinical experience show that individuals who follow treatment recommendations that include specific life changes, cognitive therapy, and psychological support, often experience a slower progression of the disease and better quality of life. It is therefore very important to get properly diagnosed, receive treatment recommendations, and follow through with those as best as possible.
If you or your loved one is experiencing memory or other cognitive problems, please do the right thing about it. See your doctor who will determine if a referral to a neurologist or neuropsychologist is warranted. You can also reach out to us and we will be glad to guide you toward beginning the process of proper evaluation and treatment. Don’t feel alone. We can help. Dr. Gaines’s approach is personal, professional, knowledgeable, with support and resources. Working with the elderly and memory impaired as a young teen in her parents’ award winning retirement care center, to teaching art and therapy, training at UCLA Longevity Center, and publishing research, Dr. Gaines has a rich experience in geriatrics that allows her to be successful in the assessment, treatment, and care of individuals with dementia.
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