As we age, misplacing keys or reading glasses and forgetting last night’s dinner menu become common occurrences. The inconveniences are often easily dismissed as senior moments. The term also often results in laughter, but it’s a serious topic. Brief lapses of cognitive memory can mean little, but they can also be serious.
Stan Goldberg, a San Francisco-based Ph.D., knows the difference. A professor emeritus in the Department of Language and Hearing Disorders at San Francisco State University, Goldberg is the author of the new book Preventing Senior Moments: How to Stay Sharp Into Your 90s and Beyond.
A prolific writer and lecturer, Goldberg believes the common notion that senior moments are inevitable with aging is a myth. How information is processed is more relevant. While most senior moments can be prevented, Goldberg believes a few may signal the development of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia in its various forms.
Alzheimer’s disease, specific changes in the brain that cause difficulty remembering recent events, accounts for up to 80% of dementia cases. As Alzheimer’s disease advances, long-term memory losses, difficulty walking and talking and other personality changes occur. As much as 30% of new Alzheimer’s patients have or have had a relative with the disease.
“A lot of times we make decisions and make sense of something with few facts,” says Goldberg, the author of nine books in the areas of learning problems, cancer, communication disorders, loss, change and end-of-life issues. He believes that impulse often leads people to talk about senior moments as laughable events.
“When you start off with that, the problem you run into is that senior moments can tell us lots of things about how well or not well our brain is functioning,” he said. “If you don’t look at what’s going on with senior moments, you don’t see that it’s a very valuable source for diagnostic information that’s [often] ignored.”
Numerous medical facilities and senior living businesses in Southwest Florida specialize in memory loss, diagnosing dementia and helping patients once diagnosed. Assisting Hands Home Care services Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Estero, Fort Myers and North Fort Myers. Its philosophy parallels Goldberg’s expertise, albeit with some differences.
“We all are forgetful from time to time, and as people age, many will suffer from some form of dementia. However, not all aging seniors encounter the disease despite often being accused of having symptoms,” the company details. “Dementia care experts understand the importance of assessing seniors thoroughly before placing a diagnosis on them. A diagnosis can be just as harmful as helpful: If the diagnosis is incorrect, it may lead both you and your parent to feelings of helplessness even though help is available.”
Goldberg advocates looking at “what’s really going on with senior moments,” he says. “You can look at any senior moment and find an error a person has made in processing information.”
Senior moments, the author believes, are divided into multiple areas, from forgetting names and numbers to misplacing objects, substituting words and disorientation. He defines nine distinct areas.
A common, universally experienced example is misplacing car keys, sometimes several times daily. The occurrences can be laughed at and dismissed, but Goldberg suggested examining what preceded the loss of the keys, perhaps indicating a loss of attention to where someone is putting objects.
Verywell.com, a health and wellness information website, offers a list of tips provided by physicians to reduce the incidence of senior moments: Do one thing at a time; notice how things look, smell, taste and feel, as well as what’s happening, in order to remember something in multiple ways; replay memories in your mind to reinforce them; get enough sleep; learn stress management techniques; reduce mental clutter by using calendars, lists and gadgets, such as personal digital assistants, or PDAs, and using memory tricks (mnemonics).
“Senior moments can be scary, but most of the time they’re just a result of the brain’s normal aging process,” Verywell.com experts say. “Unless they’re interfering with your ability to manage day-to-day activities, a few lifestyle changes should help you turn your senior moments into just occasional annoyances.”
Alzheimer’s Support Network
1421 Pine Ridge Road, Naples
Arden Courts ProMedica Memory Care Community
6125 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples
Collier County Government Center
3299 Tamiami Trail East, Naples
LPG Memory Care
12600 Creekside Lane #7, Fort Myers
Memory Treatment Centers
28420 Bonita Crossings Blvd. #110, Bonita Springs
Park Royal Behavioral Health Services
9241 Park Royal Drive, Fort Myers