Healthy Aging Month Q&A: Part 7

September 26, 2016

September is National Healthy Aging Month. Whether you are in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or older, there are many questions you may have pertaining to your everyday health. Dr. Michael Merrill of United Memorial Medical Center joins us today to discuss memory loss.

Dr. Michael Merrill
United Memorial Medical Center

Q: What is normal memory loss, and when should I be concerned?

A: First, in my experience, people who are worried about memory loss usually don’t have dementia, so that should be reassuring. 

Forgetting small things, like where we left the car keys or the name of someone we just met, is a normal part of aging and may not indicate that something serious is wrong. If after a few moments you can remember what you forgot, that’s reassuring. 

It’s more serious if you lose a mental ability you used to have, like doing math, or have difficulty following a plan to its conclusion. Other warning signs might be not being able to keep up with your favorite sports team, or not being able to follow a conversation.

Memory loss might not be caused by dementia, though. Many medications can affect the memory. This is  big problem in the elderly, who sometimes accumulate many medications over the years. Depression is common illness that can cause trouble with memory or concentrating, and depression can be subtle.

Other causes are: 

  • stroke
  • being sick with bronchitis, a urinary tract infection, or multiple other illnesses
  • social isolation
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • hypothyroidism
  • HIV infection
  • rarer illnesses like normal pressure hydrocephalus, commonly thought of as "water on the brain."

If you are concerned about your memory, it would be reasonable to see your primary care physician, a geriatrician or a neurologist. 

Rochester Regional is committed to helping every patient remain healthy, active and independent. Rochester Regional offers a range of senior care programs and services to our aging community, including independent living facilities, adult day care programs and skilled nursing homes. For more information, visit