When Should You Talk to a Doctor for Memory Problems?

Maybe you can’t remember the name of that one store that used to be downtown, or you misplace your keys more often than you used to. Forgetfulness isn’t uncommon, and recalling information or retrieving memories may get increasingly difficult as you get older. Dramatic memory loss is not a normal part of aging, however. How do you know if difficulty remembering things is normal, or if it’s an early indication of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? When should you talk to your doctor about memory problems?

Severe memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Know when to speak to a medical professional for memory problems. Click To Tweet

Noticing memory problems

Subjective cognitive decline (SCD) refers to worsening confusion or memory loss as reported by the individual. According to the CDC 1 in 9 people over the age of 45 reported confusion or memory loss. However, more than half of those who experienced subjective cognitive decline did not tell their doctor about it.

Cognitive decline can indicate the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Dementia describes a set of symptoms including memory loss, impaired judgement, loss of reasoning skills, and other forms of cognitive impairment. This memory loss can disrupt daily life.

Not everyone who reports cognitive decline is diagnosed with dementia, however. Subjective cognitive decline is self-reported; a medical professional must determine the cause of the problem.

Many different things can cause memory problems including medications, stress, alcohol or drug use, nutrient deficiencies, aging, and disease. It’s important to know when to talk to a doctor for memory problems. Ignoring the symptoms, or dismissing cognitive decline as a normal part of aging, can delay necessary care.

When should you talk to a doctor for memory problems?

Those with memory loss or confusion need to know what’s causing their problems. Memory problems may result from aging, treatable conditions, or a progressive disease. Starting the conversation with your doctor can help your doctor monitor your mental health. This ensures that the patient gets the care that is needed.

Speak to a medical professional if you notice signs of cognitive decline:

  • Difficulty communicating or finding the right words
  • Getting lost in familiar areas
  • Difficulty performing regular daily tasks
  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Putting items in places where they do not belong
  • Mixing up unrelated words
  • Taking much longer to complete familiar tasks
  • Difficulty remembering names of family members
  • Not recognizing close friends and family members
  • Increased anxiety, depression, or aggression
  • Difficulties planning or problem-solving

Talk to your doctor if you or a family member shows signs of cognitive decline. Your primary care physician will discuss the next steps with you.