We have all heard that as we age, there is no getting around becoming more and more forgetful, absent-minded and scatter-brained. Physically, the brain is just like any other organ, and it can grow weary and become less sharp. That said, developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is not a foregone conclusion for those ages 80 and over. As the aging population of the U.S. is growing, now is the time to focus on understanding and preventing cognitive decline.
The brain is akin to a muscle and needs to be worked throughout one’s lifetime, so it can continue to function optimally into our golden years. While muscles are classified as either fast-twitch or slow-twitch, the brain works in crystalized information and fluid intelligence.
For many older persons, crystalized information, or intelligence and experience gathered over time, is easily retained and recollected when needed. Conversely, more fluid and recent events sometimes appear fleeting and may be hard to grasp. The same goes for memory, attention, languages, reasoning, problem-solving skills, and processing speed. In other words, the more we develop these muscles, the more likely they are to remain strong into our golden years.
Environmental factors also play a role in cognitive decline, as do certain medications and some types of brain trauma. Stress, anxiety and feeling blue or depressed can also negatively impact our ability to respond to questions or provide detailed information immediately upon request like we once did.
Normal cognitive decline can be incredibly frustrating for those in their 70s and 80s. Seniors who experience this may no longer be able to fully function like they once did in their day-to-day lives. For example, paying bills, remembering to take medicine and simply finding the car keys can drive a senior up the wall with irritation at themselves.
Not only can minor chores become difficult, but so can leaving the house and being able to successful react to driving-related stimuli. Decision-making can also become a labor even if one is simply at the grocery store or trying to piece together a recipe. Multitasking can become increasingly challenging, as well.
These sorts of impairments certainly degrade one’s standard of living as well as quality of life, but forgetting to take medication or go to a doctor’s appointment could be substantially more impactful. In these cases, getting distracted is more than annoying: it could be life-altering.
When considering impairments, though, the worst type of barrier is growing angry with oneself. The older adult must remember that there are certain aspects to aging that lead to forgetfulness, but beating oneself up unnecessarily could result in further distractions, anxiety or depression.
Those who suffer from age-related cognitive decline might experience some of the following impairments:
Medical alert devices and personal emergency responders, especially those equipped with GPS-tracking technology, are a great option for the older adult exhibiting signs of cognitive decline. Knowing where your loved one is, even if they do not, is critical for many families who fear the older adult in their lives might be developing Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Momentary forgetfulness and the frustrations that come with not being able to recollect recent events might not seem like big issues at first, but can quickly escalate and spiral toward depression, isolation and further cognitive decline. Thus, having a two-way medical alert system that puts a loved one in touch with emergency responders or nurses 24/7 could extend a senior’s ability to live on their own while granting all parties a boost in their own peace of mind.
Age-related cognitive decline symptoms:
It is important to remember that no two brains will age the same, and some older adults may see little to no decrease in their mental function. Still, there are ways to be safe if you are growing a bit more forgetful.
Medical alert devices, in-home care systems and personal emergency responders are not always necessary when an older person begins to notice cognitive decline. Oftentimes, older folks may just need to recommit to their social networks, take a new class or join a reading club in order to boost their executive functioning capabilities and skills. Avoiding stress and accepting some memory troubles when it comes to recalling more recent events is also critical when evaluating whether an older person is simply experiencing normal cognitive decline or if they are in distress due to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
That said, it may be wise for seniors with more noticeable cognitive decline to invest in a medical alert system, so that their whereabouts can be monitored if they become confused. These systems also allow a senior to easily reach out to loved ones or medical professionals if they experience an emergency.