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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Noticing Memory Problems? What to Do Next

My mom is 76 and I have noticed her becoming more forgetful lately. I am worried she may be getting Alzheimer's disease. What resources can you recommend to help us?

Many seniors worry about memory lapses as they get older, fearing it may be the first signs of Alzheimer's disease or some other type of dementia. To get some insight on the seriousness of your mom's problem, here are some key warning signs to be vigilant of and some resources you can turn to for help.

Warning Signs

As we grow older, some memory difficulties – such as trouble remembering names of people or places or forgetting where you put your glasses or car keys – are associated with normal aging. The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are much more than simple memory lapses.

Knowing the early warning signs is a good first step in recognizing the difference between typical age-related memory loss and a more serious problem. To help you evaluate your mom's condition, here is a checklist of some common early symptoms of Alzheimer's to watch for:
  • Asking the same questions repeatedly.
  • Getting lost in familiar areas.
  • Failing to recognize familiar people.
  • Having difficulty following directions.
  • Misplaces items in inappropriate places. For example, putting her keys in the microwave.
  • Having difficulty completing familiar tasks like cooking a meal or paying a bill.
  • Having trouble remembering common words when speaking or mixing up words.
A good tool to help you evaluate your mom is the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE test) that was developed at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. This free test helps identify mild cognitive impairment and early dementia. The SAGE test can be taken at home in about 10 to 15 minutes and can be found online.

Get Help

If you would rather have professional assistance, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (see is another good resource. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they provide free, confidential virtual memory screenings done via video chat in real time. Your mother will need a phone, tablet or computer with a webcam and internet capability to complete the screening.

The screenings are given by healthcare professionals and take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Once the screening is complete, the screener will review the results with her and let her know if she should see a doctor for further evaluation. To set up a memory screening for your mom, call 866-232-8484 to make an appointment.

If your mom needs further evaluation, make an appointment with her primary care doctor for a cognitive checkup and medical examination. Depending on the results, she may be referred to a geriatrician or neurologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating memory loss or Alzheimer's disease.

Keep in mind that even if your mom is experiencing some memory problems, it does not necessarily mean she has early-stage Alzheimer's. Many memory problems are caused by other factors like stress, depression, thyroid disease, side effects of medications, sleep disorders, vitamin deficiencies and other medical conditions. By treating these conditions, she can reduce or eliminate the problem.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published December 11, 2020

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