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Forgetting This One Thing Can Be a Sign of Dementia

This kind of forgetfulness is not a part of normal aging.

Dementia is a much-feared prospect of getting older, but it's increasingly common: Experts estimate that the number of Americans with dementia will double by the year 2040, as a growing population ages and people live longer. Although the condition is progressive, it's important to recognize dementia early and seek treatment so its advancement can be slowed. These are some of the most common symptoms of dementia; forgetting one thing, in particular, is a red flag for the condition. To find out what it is, read on for these 5 key points, including the one thing you might forget that's a major sign. And to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


What is Dementia?

Mature woman sitting upset at home.

"Dementia is not a single disease but a term that describes a collection of changes to memory, thinking, and personality that interfere with a person's ability to function," says Scott Kaiser, MD, a board-certified geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "This disorder can be caused by a variety of brain diseases or conditions." Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than five million Americans.


The Typical First Sign of Dementia

senior woman with adult daughter at home.

Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of dementia, the National Institutes on Aging says. These difficulties might be observed by a loved one or someone close to the person affected. Someone with dementia may forget recent or important events, names and places, or where they left certain objects.

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Forgetting This Can Be A Sign

Moody aged man feeling unhappy.

According to the Alzheimer's Association of America, forgetting where you've put things is an early sign of dementia. "A person living with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places," the association says. "They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. He or she may accuse others of stealing, especially as the disease progresses."

This is more severe or frequent than the forgetfulness that may happen with normal aging. For example, it's normal to misplace things occasionally and retrace your moves to locate them.

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Other Signs of Dementia

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

According to Dr. Kaiser, besides memory loss, other symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Language difficulties, such as trouble finding the right words or communicating in general
  • Visual and spatial problems, such as getting lost while driving
  • Difficulty solving problems and completing mental tasks
  • Difficulty organizing and planning
  • Impairments in walking or problems with coordination
  • Poor orientation to time or place, or general confusion
  • Unexplained changes to personality, such as depression, anxiety or mood swings; new and inappropriate behaviors; irritability or agitation

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What to Do

Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks

"It's important to keep in mind that a little forgetfulness does not mean you have dementia," says Dr. Kaiser. "While memory loss is commonly a central feature of dementia, there are many things that can cause memory problems. It's best to let your healthcare providers know about your concerns and to get checked out."

He adds: "There are many good methods to evaluate memory problems and help determine if there should be any cause for concern. Don't despair, be aware." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael