Keeping Track of Forgetting

Jacqueline Marcell Health Guide
  • Occasional memory lapses are a normal part of life and a natural part of aging. With so many of us spread so thin across so many different activities, we are bound to experience a few “senior moments” here and there. If you are worried that your lapses in memory are becoming more and more frequent, you may be exhibiting symptoms of any number of conditions, many of which are potentially treatable.

    The best thing to do is to keep track of these episodes by writing them down in a symptoms notebook with date and details, so you can observe the frequency and progression, and have accurate information with specific examples for the doctor if need be down the road. If it turns out to be the beginning of some type of dementia (Alzheimer’s being one type), with early diagnosis and treatment, the progression can be slowed down. The big point is: don’t just chalk up progressing "senior moments" to old age!
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    I just had a "middle-age moment" this morning that upset me. I just finished moving (NIGHTMARE) and received a refund check for my insurance. I called my agent and was surprised to find out I had paid the bill twice! YIKES, that freaked me out, as I am so organized, and that is what I lecture about–senior moments, Mild Cognitive Impairment and the early warning sings of Alzheimer’s Disease!

    Okay, yes, I started a little booklet on myself, but I am also thinking I might be able to chalk this one up to a month of moving madness and being so discombobulated with just too many details to take care of.

    I actually know the terror of real short-term memory loss, as I experienced it big time in the midst of six months of dense-dose chemotherapy for breast cancer a couple years ago. So many gals in my support group reported they were having "chemo-brain" and I thought, hey, not me. But then… one day I was boiling water for my green tea when the phone rang. I went into my office and shut the door and forgot all about my tea. Eventually the smoke detector went off and I still didn’t remember my tea, as my apartment complex tested the fire alarms so often I thought it was just another test! By the time I finally smelled smoke coming in under the door, I COULD NOT BELIEVE that I had completely forgotten about my boiling water! I burned the pot so badly I had to throw it away, and worse, I was terrified my memory was permanently damaged and wouldn’t return.

    I cried as I told my oncologist about it, but he didn’t seem concerned, telling me that "chemo brain" is very common and gradually goes away after all treatments are finished. So when similar incidents occurred, I accepted them as part of the deal of treating the cancer. Once I even had to call my complex from the road and ask them to go in and make sure I had turned my stove off, as I just couldn’t remember. I decided to never use the stove and just used the microwave, and I bought an automatic turn-off boiling water system, and I threw out all candles so I wouldn’t even think of lighting one. I had to double check and put signs everywhere to remind myself of the things to do. I had checklists for my checklists–and on my front door so I never left without double-checking everything!

  • Isn’t it interesting that I have experienced what it must be like for a person getting dementia, and let me tell you–it is scary! Fortunately, my memory returned and I haven’t burned any more pots and I don’t feel the need to check everything, but I have infinite compassion for those afflicted with dementia, having had a mild experience of it myself.
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    If you or a loved one is experiencing "senior moments" - realize they may just be stress-related, or they could be the beginning of "Mild Cognitive Impairment"-which typically lasts 7 years and is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease. By keeping track of the incidents, you will notice if they are increasing and you will be more motivated to seek a specialist sooner for evaluation.

    Learn more about symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

    You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at
Published On: June 29, 2006