Occasional lapses in memory are a perfectly normal part of life for all of us. We’ve all forgotten someone’s birthday or misplaced our keys now and then. But when memory lapses are persistent and get in the way of your daily life, they may be an indication that you’re experiencing the early stages of a memory disorder.
If you feel as if your memory is not as sharp as it used to be (or if you suspect that a loved one may be suffering from a memory disorder), take the following test and check off every symptom that you are experiencing. Answering yes to any of these questions doesn’t mean that you necessarily have anything to worry about, but these indicators are serious enough that you might want to discuss them with your doctor.
- Do you ask the same questions over and over? Yes, we all repeat ourselves sometimes, but if you find (or others tell you) that you ask the same questions repeatedly–and that you don’t retain the answer or remember that you’ve asked before–it’s reason to be concerned.
- Do you have trouble remembering recent events? Do you have problems remembering things that happened in the recent past, perhaps even yesterday? Short-term memory loss is definitely a warning sign that’s worth paying attention to.
- Do you have trouble remembering important past events? Remembering details of events from the distant past is difficult, but it’s cause for concern if you can’t remember important facts or events–such as the names of loved ones, important dates like your child’s birthday or your anniversary, or significant life milestones.
- Do you lose things frequently? Again, occasionally misplacing something is normal. But you should be concerned if you frequently forget where you put things, or if you inexplicably put things in very unusual places (like putting your reading glasses in the freezer).
- Do you forget what day it is? Do you have problems sorting out questions of time and place, such as the current date, the order in which things happen, or how you got where you are? It may be normal to momentarily forget what day of the week it is, but persistent confusion is a problem.
- Do you have trouble planning how to do a task or finishing the task once you’ve started? For people with memory disorders, it’s sometimes difficult to think through the steps involved in doing something like following a recipe, and it’s often easy to get lost in the middle of the process. Tasks that used to be easy to do without thinking may now present a real obstacle.
- Do you have difficulty concentrating? Problems with concentration that interfere with your ability to function normally may be another warning sign of a memory disorder. Concentration difficulties may get in the way of problem solving, or they may make it hard to do something as basic as carry on a conversation.
- Do you find yourself withdrawing from your usual social activities, or from pastimes that you used to enjoy? Withdrawal from social situations can be a sign of many different disorders, but sometimes people who struggle with memory disorders step away from their usual routines because their memory problems make normal activities too challenging.
- Do you have new problems with your vision or spatial perception? Do you have trouble reading, telling the difference between colors, or judging distances between yourself and other objects? Do you have trouble driving or getting around? While the connection may not be obvious, some visual and spatial-perception difficulties are an early sign of certain memory disorders.
- Have you experienced moments of poor judgment? Have you, for example, made a bad financial decision that seems out of character for you? Do you pay less attention to personal hygiene than you used to? Memory disorders interfere with making good decisions about what’s important.
- Have there been marked changes in your mood, behavior, or personality lately? Memory disorders can make you more prone to frustration or anger when things don’t go your way, and you may have bouts of suspicion, fear, anxiety, or depression. If you experience these changes in yourself or a loved one, it could be another early warning sign of a memory disorder.
This checklist is not a diagnostic tool, and it’s no substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. However, if you find that you can answer yes to one or more of these questions–and especially if any of these situations are having a significant impact on your daily life–it could be time to have a conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider about memory disorders.
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