Cognitive decline is one of the most common challenges that seniors face as they age. Some degree of cognitive decline with f is normal and expected, but in some cases, cognitive decline can advance until it poses a threat to the individual’s health or safety.
If you’ve started to experience the symptoms of cognitive decline, you might worry about what that means for your overall well-being. Understanding exactly what cognitive decline is, what it looks like, and what you can do to manage it will help you feel more in control. Here’s everything you need to know about cognitive decline in seniors.
What Is Cognitive Decline?
Cognitive decline is a broad term that refers to any decrease in your cognitive skills. Your brain works tirelessly at all times to process your environment and decide what you should do or say. As you age, though, these complex processes may start to happen more slowly or less accurately. The following are some of the most common forms of cognition that may be affected by cognitive decline:
- Attention span
- Receptive and expressive language
- Judgment and reasoning
Mild cognitive problems are common among older adults, and everyone experiences this issue differently. Some people go through a gradual decline that continues for many years, and others see slight changes that don’t get noticeably worse with time.
Age Related Cognitive Decline vs Dementia
Older adults often feel anxious when they notice that they’ve become more forgetful or take longer to process language. You might worry that you have dementia or that you’ll lose your independence. However, mild cognitive impairment and dementia are two separate conditions.
If you have mild cognitive impairment or age-related cognitive decline, you probably feel like your brain isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. You may forget things more frequently or have a harder time following a conversation, and these experiences can be frustrating. In this case, though, your cognitive decline does not seriously interfere with your daily functioning. You can still live an independent life with minimal support from others.
Cognitive decline from dementia is more severe and usually progresses over time. While the symptoms of dementia may be very mild at first, they typically worsen until the individual needs frequent support and care from loved ones or from healthcare professionals. While age-related cognitive decline may slow down your thinking, dementia can cause intense confusion about your surroundings.
Signs & Symptoms
Cognitive impairment looks different for everyone. You might have only one symptom, or you might face several challenges. Signs and symptoms can also range in severity. The following are just a few of the many indicators that you may be experiencing cognitive decline:
- Forgetting where you put items
- Forgetting appointments or meetings
- Taking longer than usual to remember the name of a person or place
- Losing your train of thought in the middle of a conversation
- Taking longer to process what others say and think of a response
- Difficulty following multi-step instructions
- Getting confused when navigating familiar environments
- Feeling overwhelmed when you need to make a decision
- Increase in impulsivity or poor judgment
When to Be Concerned
Seniors with mild cognitive impairment can typically continue living independent lives as long as the decline doesn’t create a health or safety risk. However, if you’re at all concerned about your cognitive state, you should have an open and honest conversation with a trusted loved one. Sometimes, the people closest to you notice the signs of decline before you do, and they may have some valuable insight into whether or not you need extra support at home. You should also check in regularly with your doctor to get a professional opinion on your overall health.
Cognitive decline becomes a more serious problem when there’s a potential for a dangerous or unhealthy living situation. You should be especially cautious if you or your aging loved one lives alone as there’s no one else present to notice and correct errors. For example, forgetting to turn off the stove or oven when you’re cooking creates a fire hazard. Similarly, if you find yourself getting confused or flustered when driving, it may be unsafe for you to be behind the wheel.
One-time mistakes may not necessarily be a sign that you can’t live independently. Frequent or repeated issues are an indicator that you need more support, though. Additionally, if you’ve found that navigating your daily life and completing your usual tasks has become much more difficult, you should reach out for help. There are several resources for you to get the support you need so that you can continue living safely at home.
How to Manage Cognitive Decline
Cognitive decline isn’t fully preventable, but you can do your part to keep your mind in good shape by maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. Staying physically active has numerous cognitive benefits, and getting plenty of sleep can help you feel more alert and energized.
Participating in a wide variety of hobbies and activities can be very effective, too. Socializing with friends and family is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp. When you’re alone, you could engage your brain by reading, completing puzzles, doing crafts, or playing a musical instrument.
Knowing when to reach out for help is also essential for managing cognitive decline. There’s no shame in asking for support if certain areas of your life are becoming difficult to handle on your own. By putting preventative measures in place to minimize the ill effects of your cognitive impairment, you can keep maintaining a happy, healthy, and independent life.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides therapy for seniors with cognitive decline, mental health disorders, and other concerns. If you’re interested in senior counseling for yourself or a loved one, you can reach out to us today.