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Memory Loss

All of us will experience a change in memory and thought processing as we age.

Some of us will experience additional changes in decision making, memory, processing speed and orientation which are not associated with the aging process.

The question is often; “Am I having a “senior moment” or do I have Dementia?”

The term Dementia simply means loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory and reasoning that is greater than expected for someone's age and is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily functioning.


What causes Dementia?

Alzheimer’s causes 50-60% of all Dementia

  1. Diseases such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Huntington’s can cause degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the brain.

  2. Diseases affecting blood vessels, such as stroke and heart disease can cause a type of dementia called multi-impact Dementia.

  3. Infections of the brain and spinal cord such as AIDS and Creutzfeldt- Jackob disease can cause dementia

  4. Certain types of accumulation of fluid in the brain called Hydrocephalus can be the result of infection, injury or brain tumors and cause Dementia

  5. Head injuries, either a single event or longer term smaller injuries can result in changes in brain function

  6. Long term alcohol/ drug abuse can lead to changes in brain function as well


What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s is one type of Dementia. It has no known cause or cure, and can only be diagnosed by identifying the pattern of symptoms. There is no one test which can give a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Dementia and therefore medical providers need to work together to determine if treatment for Alzheimer’s is appropriate. Diagnosing any type of Dementia that an individual may have will depend on personal/family history, medical history, and current symptoms. Each will be critical to determining if you have any form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Your doctor may also want to perform other evaluations such as an MRI, CT scan or MRA to determine other criteria which exist in various forms of Dementia.



My doctor wants me to have Neuropsychological testing. What exactly is a Neuropsychological Assessment?

Determining the type of dementia is critical for your physician to make decisions about intervention. A Neuropsychological Assessment includes a thorough clinical interview to go over your current symptoms, education and work history, medical history, psychiatric history and current medications. Understanding how well someone has functioned in their lifetime is critical to understanding changes from their baseline. 


In addition, testing can be performed to determine if your symptoms are age appropriate or produce a pattern consistent with a more serious medical condition. Testing is experienced often like school- puzzles, question-answer and problem solving quizzes. The results of the testing combined with any other evaluation often demonstrate patterns which allow your physician to consider the next step in treatment, such as medications. Safety issues, such as appropriateness to drive, manage major medical decisions, finances and independent living can also be discussed with the results of such testing.




Can depression or anxiety contribute or cause memory loss?

Depression, anxiety or any other emotional state can interfere with our ability to think clearly and remember information. Often stress can impact our physical health, including our memory and energy level, this loss of motivation can mimic symptoms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. Evaluation of all factors which can influence thought processes and memory is critical to help your doctors make appropriate recommendations.


  • Seek out social supports and activities that provide a positive distraction or alternative to negative ruminations.

  • After clearance from your medical provider, begin an exercise routine. Gradually build up to a regular exercise program that fits for you.

  • Try to note your thinking and reappraise negative thoughts about yourself, events, or others’ expectations.

  • Take small steps to address problematic situations in your life that might be contributing to your negative mood or depression.

  • Assess whether your goals or expectations for yourself are reasonable and attainable. If they are not, make modifications accordingly.

  • Explore an interest or re-engage with a former hobby. Try to seek out multiple sources for positive affirmation.

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