Having a word on the tip of our tongues, misplacing things, or getting confused with directions happens as we age. Forgetting things is a natural part of aging. However, sudden memory loss, like forgetting loved one’s names or getting lost in a familiar area are troubling signs of something more severe.
Sudden memory loss could be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But it could also be brought on by other recent changes, such as new medications or a head injury.
When we reconvene with senior loved ones this holiday season, let’s take notice of signs of change. Memory loss can be a normal part of aging, but here’s how to notice and address sudden and profound changes.
What are the Signs of Sudden Memory Loss in Seniors
Often the first symptoms of a serious illness in seniors is confusion or decreased alertness. This is why it can be concerning when we start to observe these changes in our loved ones. Here are symptoms to look out for that may indicate something is wrong with your loved one:
- Disorganized and jumbled thoughts
- Aggressive behavior
- Difficulty solving easy problems
- Not recognizing familiar faces or places
- Experiencing paranoia or delusional thoughts
What Causes Sudden Memory Loss in Seniors
The number one cause of sudden memory loss in seniors isn’t due to serious symptoms from Alzheimer’s, dementia or a stroke, but rather from an overuse of medications and complications with multiple medication interactions.
The following medications have shown to increase brain fog and forgetfulness in patients:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Depression drugs
- Narcotic pain killers
- High blood pressure medicine
- Sleeping aides
- Anti-seizure medication
Keep notice of when your loved one’s behavior started changing. Was it after changing prescriptions? Is it because of medication interactions?
Talk to your loved one and their doctor to pinpoint exactly what’s causing newfound confusion and sudden forgetfulness. If your loved one takes medications together that shouldn’t be combined, create a new system for taking medicine that avoids these negative interactions.
Other Causes of Sudden Memory Loss
While overusing or misusing medication is the most common cause of sudden memory loss, there are other causes that may also require medical attention. These could include:
- A head injury, such as a concussion
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Heart problems, such as a heart attack
- A stroke
- Mental health problems, such as depression
- Sleep problems
- Thyroid problems
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia
Could it be Amnesia?
Amnesia is a form of memory loss caused by a head injury, a traumatic event, substance abuse, or a stroke. Amnesia’s effects can either be temporary or permanent.
To rule out amnesia as a cause for sudden memory loss, take your loved one to a doctor to get a comprehensive evaluation, including taking cognitive tests, getting a physical, and ordering diagnostic tests such as an MRI, CT scan, and blood tests.
Addressing Sudden Memory Loss: When to Seek Professional Help
It can be common for seniors experiencing memory loss to try and hide their problems, not wanting to scare their loved one or place a burden on them. Be upfront in showing your loved one that you care for them and offer to take them to the doctor, to make it as easy on them as possible to get help.
There are numerous tests that doctors can run for diagnosing sudden memory loss. Be sure not to jump to conclusions or expect the worst.
Doctors will ask several questions to diagnose sudden memory loss such as:
- When did you start noticing memory changes?
- Have you recently started taking new medication?
- Have you recently experienced a head injury?
- Have you been sick recently?
- Have you recently experienced a greif?
Be sure to stay by your loved one’s side to help answer the questions and remember what the doctor said after the visit.
Celebrating the Holidays at Kensington Place
This holiday season will be different than before. If you plan on visiting a loved one, be sure to follow safe CDC recommendations. Consider visiting your loved one from a distance, where you can safely share your love, time, and attention. When you’re talking with your loved one, keep a lookout for signs of change, and address these changes before they become more serious.
Our state-of-the-art community provides around-the-clock care for your loved one, because at Kensington Place, we pledge to take care of your loved one as we would our own.
If you have questions about addressing sudden memory loss, please reach out to see how we can help your loved one.