Dementia is a scary word. So is senile.
Both words conjure up images of being helpless in old age, of losing your memories. Of losing yourself. And the worst thing about losing your mind is that once it’s gone, it’s gone. You’re never the same…except when that’s not the case.
In recent years, doctors and scientists have seen more and more cases where memory loss isn’t just a natural consequence of aging. Sometimes it’s caused by other things, like medication. The wrong combination of medicine can cause confusion and forgetfulness. So can doses that are too high or too low.
Stress is also a factor. Being stressed out can shrink the hippocampus – a part of the brain that helps form and hold onto memories.
So how do you know if an elderly parent is suffering from dementia, or if it’s a problem with medications or stress?
First, find out what medication they’re taking and learn about possible side effects. And try to find out what’s going on in their lives that might be stressful. And, of course, talk with their doctor to see about trying a new medication or changing doses.
The good news is that if medicine or stress is to blame for memory problems, making a change could solve the problem and help your parent be themselves again.