Memory Loss and Aging
We all forget things, such as where we put our car keys or even someone's name, and as we get
older it may feel like it happens more often. It is normal to forget things once in a while. It may
also take longer to learn new things. This is normal and should not cause alarm.
When should you be concerned about memory loss?
Examples of memory loss that may be a sign of a more serious problem are:
ξ You don’t know a close family member
ξ Getting lost in a familiar place
ξ Forget how to use a common object such as a phone
When should you discuss your memory concerns with a health care provider?
Memory problems are those that reduce a person’s ability to carry out normal daily chores. Signs
of memory problems that you should talk to your health care provider about can include:
ξ Difficulty doing daily chores
ξ Problems with tasks you usually find easy to do such as driving a car, shopping, or
ξ Getting lost going to places you have been many times
ξ Confused about time, people, places or events
ξ Forget to bathe, eat or do daily tasks
What to Do If You Are Concerned
If you are concerned that your memory is not normal you should see your provider. Some
memory problems are treatable by improving diet or sleep, or removing stressors from your life.
If identified early your health provider may be able to help. Some examples of treatable memory
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Injury or disease
- Certain Medicines
- Poor diet or not enough fluids in the body
- Alcohol abuse
- Thyroid problems
If you suspect, you are having memory issues that are not normal you should see your medical
Tips for Coping with Memory Problems
ξ Visit your doctor and follow his/her advice
ξ Use big calendars
ξ Make a daily list of chores
ξ Write notes to yourself
ξ Print out steps for use of household items
ξ Keep items you use often in the same place
ξ Use pill boxes and write down the times you take your medicines. Keep this list with
your medicines. You can even add pictures of the pills with the list.
Healthy Body, Healthy Brain
You can keep your brain healthy by keeping your body healthy. Some steps you can take
ξ Stay active
ξ Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, and other lean proteins. Avoid too much salt, fat
ξ Get enough rest
ξ Avoid excess alcohol
ξ Reduce stress in your life
ξ Get regular check-ups
ξ Keep your brain active and make time for hobbies
ξ Meet new people, connect with family or friends
Your Healthcare Team Can Help
Contact your health care team if you think you are having a problem with your memory. Let the
team help you find the reason for your memory loss and potential ways to treat, prevent, or cope
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute on Aging. (2017). Forgetfulness:
Knowing When to Ask for Help. Retrieved from:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute on Aging. (2015). Understanding
Alzheimer’s Disease (NIH Publication No. 10-5442). Silver Spring, MD: National Institutes of
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute on
Aging. (2010). Understanding memory loss. (NIH Publication No. 06-5442). Silver Spring, MD:
National Institutes of Health.
Yevchak, A.M., Loeb, S.J., & Fick, D.M. (2008). Promoting cognitive health and vitality: A review of
clinical implications. Geriatric Nursing, 29(5), 302 – 310.
UWHealth. Health Topics. Confusion, Memory Loss, and Altered Alertness 2016.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©8/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6977.