Why Bother?

Reasons to engage in memory screening for older adults

Posted Apr 20, 2012

Older adults are fatalistic about memory problems. Many people assume that memory declines with age and that there is nothing that can be done about it. 

So why should one go through the painful and potentially embarrassing process of getting one's memory tested? The news is bound to be bad and there is no hope of improvement.

Indeed, it is the case that for some persons, memory impairment is not treatable but that is not true for everyone. And even in the worst-case scenario, there are good reasons to have one's memory evaluated:

(1)   Some causes of memory impairment are reversible. For example, memory impairment can accompany depression or thyroid dysfunction, which are treatable conditions. Following treatment, memory may improve.

(2)   Memory impairment is associated with functional impairment and risk of injury or other adverse outcomes. If memory is indeed impaired, modifications to one’s lifestyle and/or living environment can lead to better safety and security.

(3)   There are some pharmacologic and behavioral treatments for memory problems.

(4)   Knowledge about memory impairment is important for health care planning and decision-making. Family members can learn how to provide proper care for persons affected by cognitive decline.

(5)  If memory impairment is discovered and is suspected to be due to a degenerative condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the individual may be eligible to participate in clinical trials for new, disease-modifying medications. Further, contributing to science is a source of comfort for many persons.

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