Forgetfulness

What is Forgetfulness? What’d I Just Say?

Where did I put my keys…where did I put my phone…who was I supposed to call…why did I come into this room?  Everyone seems to experience this type of forgetfulness from time to time.  It is quite common and can be brought on by a number of reasons. So what is forgetfulness? Simply put forgetfulness is the absence of memory retrieval.

How Dare You -I Am Not Forgetful – Wait, Who Was I Supposed to Call?

Have you heard this joke…Three ladies were discussing the difficulties of getting older.  One said, “Sometimes while standing at the kitchen counter, I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand, and I can’t remember whether I need to put it away or start making a sandwich.”  The second lady joined in with, “Yes, sometimes I find myself on the landing of the stairs and can’t remember whether I was on my way up or on my way down.”  The third one responded, “Well ladies, I’m glad I don’t have that problem, knock on wood, as she rapped her knuckles on the table, and then said, “That must be someone at the door, I’ll get it!”

Yes, we can and do laugh at being forgetful, but it can also get us wondering why we are experiencing it.

Causes

People who experience forgetfulness might find they can still remember what their address was of their childhood home, what schools they attended, or a memory of a road trip taken years ago, but may not be able to remember what they were looking for when they walked into a room or try to think of a particular word or name.

Many times this is just a part of the aging process or perhaps something in our lifestyle that can be a contributing factor such as:

  • Medications

    • Many medications can lead to forgetfulness.  I’ve listed some of the more common ones below, but other medications can have this effect as well.
      • Benzodiazepines – prescribed many times for insomnia and anxiety.
      • Antidepressants
      • Statins – used for lowering cholesterol
      • Painkillers
      • Beta-blockers – commonly used for hypertension (high blood pressure)
      • Antihistamines – commonly used for allergies or the common cold.
      • Drugs used for incontinence and overactive bladder.
      • Drugs used for insomnia or sleep disorders.
    • The best thing to do if you are experiencing forgetfulness is to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking.  Many times there is an alternative medication you can take.  However, don’t stop taking any prescription medication without first consulting with your doctor.  Coming off medication unsupervised can lead to serious side effects and may even cause death.
    • A side story here on how I experienced forgetfulness while taking medication –  When I had surgery I was given a prescription for Percocet (a pain reliever). I was taking my pills and then I forgot, of course after swallowing, if I had already taken this pill? I usually wrote it down but this time I didn’t. I was alone and what if I already taken the pill would taking another cause any dangerous side effects? I ended up calling poison control because I literally did not have a memory if I had taken one or two of the pills. What an amazing representative I talked to there. We went over the pills I might have taken and by pure luck, it was okay if I had taken two because the dose was low enough, however, they did call me back a couple of hours later to be sure I was responsive.
  • Stress/Anxiety

    • Stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on the body.  When you are under stress or anxiety your brain becomes overstimulated and you may become distracted which in turn can make remembering difficult.
  • Dehydration

    • You’ve probably heard this before – water is essential for your body to function correctly.  It’s true – forgetfulness is part of this.  The solution is to be sure you are drinking enough water.  And though coffee and tea might count toward water consumption, they also contain caffeine which can cause dehydration.  Because of this, it’s best to drink plain water.  The recommendation is usually 6-8 glasses a day, but you may need more if you’re active or spend a lot of time in the sun.
  • Diet

    • Has everyone heard – food is fuel for the brain – well maybe not everyone has but it is true.  If you’re not eating healthy foods, it could be interfering with memory.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency

    • Vitamin D is naturally derived from sunlight and found in some foods such as fatty fish and fortified milk and orange juice. Though Vitamin D seems to be in abundance many people are deficient in it.
    • Recently I was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency. This surprised me since I live in Arizona, which has sunlight most of the year.  The doctor explained that even though we get plenty of sunshine, many of us spend most of the day inside trying to escape the heat.
    • A simple blood test can detect if you are deficient in Vitamin D, and then you can be treated to get your levels up into the normal range.
  • Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

    • As we age, it is more difficult for our bodies to absorb Vitamin B-12 through food.  Because of this, doctors will sometimes suggest Vitamin B-12 shots or supplements.
    • Foods that are high in Vitamin B-12 are:
      • Fish and shellfish
      • Meats
      • Poultry and eggs
      • Dairy products
      • Fortified cereals

Memory Enhancements

Even if you are experiencing forgetfulness, there are ways to help.  I’ve used quite a few of these methods myself. Forgetfulness

  • Consciously remember

    • By this, I’m referring to something as simple as watching the garage door close, so you don’t get halfway to work and wonder if you shut it because you don’t remember.  Having the visual of watching it close can help you remember.
    • As you’re leaving the house make a mental note to leave in the same order each time.  For me I check to be sure my curling iron etc. is unplugged in the bathroom, then as I leave my bedroom, I look to see if the ceiling fan is off. I go through the house and do the same visual each time.  Then I don’t have to wonder if I remembered to turn the coffee maker off etc.
    • Consciously remembering may not be 100% foolproof, but most of the time it has worked for me.
  • Exercise

    • I know some of us don’t even like the word exercise, but it does do much good for the body.  As our world evolved, we have gotten so much more sedentary.  If you can’t get outside to exercise there are streaming services and inside exercise equipment, you can use.  As I’m writing this article I’ve been looking into getting a treadmill for inside and a bike when the weather is nice out. A previous article I wrote about bikes can be found here.
  • Games and Puzzles

    • Games can be so much fun and there are many you can play alone.
      • Concentration – Remember this card game where you turn the cards face down and try to pair up matching cards.
      • Suduko
      • Crossword Puzzles
      • Simon
      • Pictures with Differences
      • Puzzles
  • Learning something new

    • Is there some hobby or learning experience you’ve always wanted to learn.  Take it up to keep your mind active.
  • Making Lists

    • I know we think we can remember everything but with everyday stresses, we can forget.
    • A list also lets you feel productive as you check off your completed items.
  • Mnemonics

    • There are several types of mnemonics but they are all used to help to remember and memorize.
      • One type of mnemonics is using the first letter of each item in a list and making a sentence to remember the list.
        • Cookies, grapes, milk, bread.
          • Your mnemonic could be –
            • Charlie gets mad when bored.
            • When you get to the store your sentence can help you remember what you need (if you forgot your list).
      • I remember to this day learning to spell “arithmetic” by the mnemonic:
        • A
        • rat
        • in
        • the
        • house
        • might
        • eat
        • Tom’s
        • ice
        • cream.
      • How about remembering the Great lakes with the word “Homes.”
        • Lake Huron
        • Lake Ontario
        • Lake Michigan
        • Lake Erie
        • Lake Superior
  • Reduce Stress

    • Many people find meditation and drawing/painting helpful in reducing stress. Maybe taking a walk or reading is your stress reducer. Painting
  • Routine

    • Having routines can reduce our forgetfulness.  For instance:
      • Each time you use your keys have a place especially for them that you leave them when you’re done.

Simple Forgetfulness vs Dementia vs Alzheimer’s

Just a short note on the differences between forgetfulness, dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Forgetfulness is what we discussed above.  Dementia is a catchall phrase for many types of disorders that have memory loss.  Dementia is nonreversible and you will see a decline in the mental function of someone who has dementia. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia.

With symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is a progression in the disease.  You might see behavioral changes – possibly aggression.  Memory loss gets more and more prevalent.  There might be confusion and it gets harder and harder to carry on an everyday conversation with clarity.

I remember a doctor once explained to me the difference between forgetfulness and dementia.  He said, “forgetting where you put your car keys is forgetfulness.  Forgetting you have a car is something more.”

If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing something more than simple forgetfulness a doctor’s visit is needed.  Dementia can be diagnosed usually with mental skills tests – like repeating back a list of words or connecting numbers.  An Alzheimer’s diagnosis, at this time, is usually based on observation and ruling out other disorders.  Getting a doctor’s opinion is important so a game plan can be put into place.

Now That You Know the Difference You Probably Feel Better

What is forgetfulness?  Most of the time just a phenomenon you experience throughout life.  Maybe it’s just more noticeable because we become more aware of it occurring as we age.  There are ways to keep your mind active and enhancements to making remembering easier.  Not all forgetting leads to dementia or Alzheimer’s but it is important to check with your doctor if you or someone you know is experiencing more than just everyday forgetfulness.

 

I would love to hear your stories of forgetfulness and memory. Please comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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