I receive calls from concerned family members regarding their older loved one’s short term memory impairment and the havoc it can wreak on everyday safety. There are as many reasons for short term memory impairment as there are individuals afflicted, and ruling out an underlying medical cause should be first on your to-do list.
Delirium is defined as temporary confusion caused by medical or neurological diseases or biochemical disorders. (Possible causes include medication, infection, sensory deprivation and overload, metabolic problems, hypoxia.) Delirium, or an acute confused state, is under recognized and believed reversible with correction of the underlying medical problem. Delirium is present in 10-30 percent of hospitalized elderly patients.
Depression is defined as a lowering of mood, loss of energy, appetite, inner drive, self esteem, restful sleep, concentration, and the will to live. Elderly patients who experience memory impairment should be screened for depressive symptoms, since they may be suffering from depression with “pseudo dementia” or cognitive impairment believed to be related to the presence of a depressive disorder.
Dementia is defined as the loss of multiple intellectual functions. Delirium and depression symptoms may be mistaken with dementia. Generally speaking, an acute behavioral or mood change is suggestive of delirium. Once medical contributors have been ruled out, depression, characterized by a more pervasive or chronic low-mood state with or without cognitive impairment should be considered. Patients with dementia are less likely to self-report their cognitive problems than are patients with depression.
A thorough medical evaluation is vitally important. Contact your loved one’s primary care provider or St. Joseph Mercy Senior Health Clinic 734.712.5189 or University of Michigan Health System Geriatrics Center 734.764.6831. Please do not put this off or think it is a normal part of aging! It may be something as simple as dehydration or a urinary tract infection. Tests to establish a baseline for cognitive functioning may prove invaluable for planning now and down the road.
If you think your loved one may be suffering from delirium, depression, or dementia and would like more information, please contact Care Response Home Health today at (734) 662-2207 or email@example.com.