5 Common Reasons for Forgetfulness in Senior Living

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5 Common Reasons for Forgetfulness in Senior Living

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Having a memory lapse as a senior isn't always a sign of Alzheimer's or dementia.


Have you ever walked into a room only to forget what you were planning to do?

Don’t panic about the threat of Alzheimer’s or dementia just yet.

According to the Harvard School of Medicine, there a number of common reasons, wholly unrelated to Alzheimer’s or dementia, that older adults (and younger, too) experience lapses in memory.

1. Lack of sleep

The quality of your sleep can greatly impact your ability to function, but according to Harvard, “not getting enough sleep is perhaps the greatest unappreciated cause of memory slips.”

You’ve probably already noticed that a night spent tossing and turning doesn’t leave at your best the next morning. In addition to making you feel rundown, groggy, or snappish all day, lack of sleep can also cause stress and anxiety—all of which contribute to memory problems.

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, take a look at this blog from our sister ERH retirement community and see how you can improve the quality of your sleep in 5 simple steps.

2. Medication

We’ve talked, on multiple occasions, about how medicines can adversely affect your health when they aren’t used correctly.

There are a number of regularly prescribed and over-the-counter medicines that can cause drowsiness and confusion in some older adults—especially when they’re taken with alcohol or other medications. The antidepressants Paxil, Elavil, Norpramin, Aventyl, and Pamelor; some medications that treat incontinence like Ditropan, Detrol, or Detrusil; Tagamet for heartburn; ACE inhibitors like Capoten that manage blood pressure; as well as any cold and allergy medicine that has brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine, or diphenhydramine as an active ingredient have been known to cause problems with concentration and memory.

You should always talk to your senior healthcare provider and pharmacist about the proper way to take your medications and their potential side effects. If your medications are causing memory loss, see if your doctor can offer any alternatives.

3. Underactive thyroid

The thyroid, which is located in your neck, produces hormones that keep your metabolism burning the amount of energy you need to get through the day.

When your thyroid is underactive, it produces fewer hormones which slows your metabolism and makes senior living feel like it’s creeping sluggishly along. It can lead to restless sleep and, in some cases, depression—both of which are harmful to memory and mental wellness.

If you’ve been experiencing memory loss, talk to your senior healthcare advisor about getting a blood test to determine whether your thyroid might be the culprit.

4. Drinking too much alcohol

Theheart and brain healthy Mediterranean diet recommends moderate wine consumption to sharpen the mind, but, just as with any other food or drink, over-indulging in alcohol can be detrimental to your health. Drinking too much alcohol has been proven to damage short-term memory, even after the alcohol has left your blood stream.

The amount of alcohol your body can tolerate well varies for every individual, but the National Institutes of Health recommend that older adults limit their alcohol consumption to no more than 1 drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men with 12 ounces of beer with a normal ABV, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 and a half ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits being considered a single drink.

5. Mental Wellness

Your brain fitness is directly connected to your mental wellness.

Stress and anxiety both interfere with your ability to concentrate, making it difficult to muster the focus you need to retain new information or recall certain skills or memories.

Depression also produces inattention as well as a loss of purpose and pleasure in previously enjoyed tasks, all of which contribute to memory loss.

As with any health related issue, consult your senior healthcare provider or pharmacist so you can treat your symptoms effectively.

Image Credit: Winning Information

Bryan Reynolds
July 26, 2013
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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