Memory Loss: Lack of Awareness Points to Dementia

Middle aged and worried about your memory slips? You probably don’t have dementia. The majority of the memory slips that concern this age group, and even those significantly older, are due to stress and other factors rather than impending dementia. However, researchers have now found that people who are suffering from memory loss but are unaware of their problem are most likely developing the disease.

This new research suggests that people who begin to lose awareness of their memory loss go on to develop dementia within three years. They can no longer trace their train of thought or their movements backward in order to remind themselves of what they forgot. They may increasingly find that they aren’t even aware that they are forgetting important parts of daily life.

Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, was lead author of the study published in the journal Neurology. Wilson says, in the article, that a number of changes in the brain related to dementia are associated with a decline in memory awareness.

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a group of symptoms that severely affects cognitive functioning. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. It's thought, however, that the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s is vastly underreported because many people who are dying from Alzheimer’s will die first from pneumonia or another illness that will be listed as cause of death, Still, Alzheimer's is the reason for the complication that caused the death.

The risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as most other types of dementia, increases as we age, therefore the majority of people affected are elderly. However, younger onset Alzheimer’s, as well as Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and others types of dementia, can affect people younger than 65. There are cases of younger onset dementia in people who are in their 30s, so there is cause to be aware that dementia can’t be ruled out for any of us until we are tested.

Listen to Family and Friends

While most of us don’t want our loved ones pointing out each episode of forgetfulness, it is through family and friends that we often find out that something is off. Whether that means a personality change of some type, a more volatile temperament than we used to have or more memory issues, it pays to listen to our loved ones and see a doctor if loved ones point out recurring problems. Remember that there is a good chance that your symptoms are reversible with treatment, so don’t put it off.

Some lack of awareness not unusual

Don’t panic if you experience some lack of awareness of memory loss. That happens to most people, especially as they age. But a marked decline in awareness could spell trouble.

Be sure to see your doctor if you are troubled by memory issues regardless of your age. Most likely, as stated earlier, you are under too much stress and making mistakes and forgetting things are symptoms that suggest that you need to take better care of yourself. Additionally, infections and medications can cause memory issues.

A physical and an honest conversation with your doctor should either reassure you that you don’t have dementia or point you in the direction of further screening. Either way, getting medical attention is important if you are worried about memory lapses or you have lapses others have to point out.

Carol is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at www.mindingourelders.comand On Twitter, follow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook: Minding Our Elders

Carol Bradley Bursack
Meet Our Writer
Carol Bradley Bursack

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. This experience provided her with her foundation upon which she built her reputation as a columnist, author, blogger, and consultant. Carol is as passionate about supporting caregivers work through the diverse challenges in their often confusing role as she is about preserving the dignity of the person needing care. Find out much more about Carol at