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Talking Memory Loss with Your Doctor

When do memory issues become a problem?

A Veteran meeting with his doctor to talk about memory problemsEveryone forgets things at times. How often have you misplaced your car keys or forgotten the name of someone you just met? While it can be normal to forget some things as you get older, it can become troubling if you can’t hold a conversation or even lose track of what year it is. If this starts to happen, it’s time to talk to your doctor about what to do next.

If you need to talk to your doctor about your memory loss, we want you to feel prepared. Learn more about what to ask and what you should bring to your appointment.

When to ask about memory loss

Most people experience some memory loss as they get older. You shouldn’t worry too much unless memory problems start to disrupt your daily life. If your memory gets in the way of completing daily tasks or makes life challenging, it may be time to talk to your health care team. Watch for other warning signs like:

  • Asking the same questions over and over again

  • Becoming lost in familiar places

  • Not being able to follow directions

  • Getting very confused about time, people, and places

  • Not taking care of yourself, including eating poorly, not bathing, or being unsafe

What to bring to your appointment

At your appointment, be prepared for an evaluation. You’ll need to bring a list of changes you’ve noticed in your health, memory, or behavior. You’ll need your past and current medical information list of everything you’re taking: prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements.

Based on what you share, your doctor might give you a physical exam and take some labs. In some cases, your doctor might conduct cognitive testing.

Which questions to ask

If you’ve ever left the doctor’s office and felt like you forgot to ask a question, you know it’s important to write down your concerns. Bring a list of questions about memory loss with you. This list can help you get started:

  • What tests do you need, and how should I prepare?

  • How long until I get results from tests?

  • If I have dementia, what should I watch for?

  • What are my next steps?

Before you worry, remember that some memory loss can be normal. But it’s important to share any concerns you have with your health care team. If you have questions about your memory, reach out to your doctor today using Secure Messaging (sign in required).

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Have you talked to your doctor about memory problems?