HEALTH NOTE: Is it normal aging or is it memory loss? – Lincoln Journal Star

Challenges with checkbooks. Concerns with cooking. Personality changes.

Are these examples of the normal aging process or signs of memory loss?

For the growing number of families who are silently struggling with how to navigate significant cognitive changes, an upcoming series of events at the Legacy Arbors Memory Care Community could be the answer.

“The signs of memory loss can arrive as much as 15 to 20 years before a form of dementia is diagnosed,” says Michele Carlson, 30-year professional with experience in dementia at The Legacy Arbors.

Carlson’s work over the last two decades has allowed her to ensure state-of-the-art programming through activities, exercises and individualized plans for every resident.

“Most of us have had instances where we get upset because we enter a room and have forgotten the reason why we’re there,” she says. “While this can be scary if it happens often, it’s important to recognize whether this is an ongoing issue – and then determine whether a person’s changes in behavior are affecting his or her quality of life.”

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To help individuals and families with this topic, Carlson will discuss “Normal Aging vs. Memory Loss” as part of the popular Legacy of Learning series, kicking off with its first event at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 at The Legacy, 5600 Pioneers Blvd. Legacy of Learning series will also feature additional sessions on dementia, as well as a multitude of other topics that are all open for free to the public as the year progresses.

Emerging post-pandemic

The timing is right for this series as older adults are emerging from a long period of time in substantial isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Carlson’s presentation will focus on the differences between normal aging and the early signs of dementia, examples of both, and what resources are available to diagnose and treat memory loss.

The series, scheduled at 2 p.m. the second Tuesday each of the next four months, is designed to connect with those who want support and education on memory loss.

Memory loss brings so much uncertainty for the person and the caregiver, said Carlson, a Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer and Certified Dementia Practitioner. She emphasizes the importance of staying physically and socially active – both for the person living with dementia and their families or caregivers.

Myth: ‘It won’t get worse’

“Unfortunately, denial is common, thinking “it can’t get worse” or “I can handle it at home,” says Carlson. “They’ve convinced themselves that their loved one won’t drive off with the car or start a fire.”

Guilt can get in the way of making sound family decisions.

“Family members feel guilty if they deny Dad the keys to the car because he’s driven all his life,” says Carlson, “or they don’t worry about the potential of misusing credit cards because until lately, there hadn’t been a problem.”

If it’s time, consider your options

If your loved one with dementia has reached the point where the disease is affecting his/her quality of life and it’s time to make the move to memory care, Carlson suggests considering all your options and then selecting the memory care community that’s the best fit.

“Tour more than one community,” she says, “and ask about staffing experience and qualifications.”

If you’ve decided that memory care should be your next move, don’t delay. With dementia cases rapidly on the rise, many communities have a waiting list, so it’s important to be proactive.

To register for the series, call 402-466-3777. Although registration is encouraged, walk-ins are welcome.

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