As our parents, most of them baby boomers, begin to age, it is important to understand the variety of health dynamics we will face over the next several decades. With the life expectancy reaching phenomenal levels, some living into their eighties and nineties, our parents will become more dependent upon us to stay abreast of the latest in medical research and technology.
One area of particular concern to both baby boomers, as well as their adult children, is this continuous research and advancements in memory loss and dementia. Understanding what is normal, age related memory loss, and what is considered dementia or that related to a health condition, is crucial to ensuring the health and safety of our baby boomer parents into the latter part of life.
Memory loss, for most of the adult population, is quite normal. We enter into a realm of stages involving memory loss with most of our parents suffering only mild symptoms associated with aging of the brain. Sometimes this memory loss is organic in nature but at other times it may be related to side effects of medication, changes in lifestyle and, in more and more cases, related to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
As baby boomers continue to fledge forward into their retirement years, often, there will be a great discord with their children over the diagnosis and treatment of memory loss. Nonetheless, adult children are encouraged to seek out evaluation of any memory loss in a parent in an effort to negate long term effects when possible.
While there is no one test to clearly diagnose a memory loss, a health care professional will want to examine your parent and take a complete health and physical history, including an inventory of current life stressors which may impact confusion and memory inhibition. Additionally, blood tests to rule out other underlying health complications, cognitive screening tests, EEG and CT scan are quite common.
If your parent is diagnosed with a memory loss condition, even those related to Alzheimer’s, there are a variety of treatment options available. In fact, early diagnosis and intervention often leads to a reversal or slowed progression of memory loss allowing for continued independence for both you and your parent.
To prevent memory deterioration in your parent, consider finding ways in which the parent can strengthen the cognitive processes, in the evenings after work or when retired. Such brain stimulating activities might include word games and puzzles and even a simple game of memory with a young grade school child. The key to optimal outcomes, therefore, lies in the prevention and aggressive pursuit of early intervention and treatment when signs of memory loss are apparent.
As with any healthcare issue affecting the baby boomer population the issue of memory loss is expected to be of great concern as our medical systems become more burdened and short staffed. As adult children of the baby boomer population, we must strive to assist our parents in not only treating memory loss when it occurs but also assist with prevention so they, and we, can live, as much as possible, a normal and healthy life.