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Memory: What’s Normal vs When to Worry

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Memory loss is a normal part of aging; however, at a certain point, memory loss can be an indicator of dementia and/or developing dementia. It’s important to know which symptoms are regularly associated with aging and which ones you should consider speaking with a doctor about. Normal signs of aging often include:

  • Taking a few minutes to understand instructions, when you used to ‘get’ things immediately
  • Difficulty learning new executive tasks, such as operating a smartphone or computer
  • Trouble learning and recalling new information, like having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation
  • Having to occasionally search for words; not quite being able to retrieve information you have ‘on the tip of your tongue’

Other symptoms that are not necessarily normal issues associated with aging include:

  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks (paying bills, keeping track of medications)
  • Getting lost or disoriented even in familiar places; inability to follow directions
  • Repeating phrases and stories in same conversation

In addition to aging, memory loss and dementia can be caused by a number of factors, including stress, high blood pressure, depression and neurological conditions.

If an individual is experiencing memory loss, it is important for them to discuss it with their doctor, who will conduct basic memory tests to determine if the individual should be referred to a geriatric specialist or neurologist for more detailed testing. These specialists will be able to make a conclusive diagnosis of dementia and/or rule out the disease, and get patients on the right path toward treatment. Fortunately, Cone Health has an extensive network of primary care physicians, geriatric specialists and neurologists who can help diagnose and treat individuals in the community who are experiencing memory problems.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Tiffany Reed is a geriatric specialist at Piedmont Senior Care, and a member of the Cone Health medical staff.  Dr. Reed earned her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.  She completed her residency in internal medicine at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center, and a fellowship in geriatric medicine at Duke University Medical Center.