One of the most challenging things for the staff at Memory Matters is to convince people to stop worrying about their memory, and, if they are worried, to be pro-active and get a free baseline memory screening.

Worrying can actually affect your memory in a negative way. It is right up there with stress. This is poison for your brain.

Let’s review the difference between age-related memory decline and what could be symptomatic of something more serious.

Challenges in planning or solving problems: People with Alzheimer’s often have trouble following a recipe or balancing a checkbook.

Age related – making a few errors when balancing checkbook.

Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure: People with Alzheimer’s can forget what a microwave is used for.

Age related – occasionally needing help with TV remote or microwave.

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: People with Alzheimer’s might forget they have a wallet or purse.

Age related – misplacing things from time to time but being able to retrace steps and find them.

Confusion with time or space: People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. Sometimes they might forget where they are or how they got there.

Age related – Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

Decreased or poor judgment: People with Alzheimer’s might experience changes in judgment or decision-making. They might use poor judgment when dealing with money or pay less attention to grooming.

Age related – Making a bad decision once in a while or missing a monthly payment.

Withdrawal from work or social activities: People with Alzheimer’s might start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work or sports projects.

Age related – Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

New problems with words in speaking or writing: People with Alzheimer’s might have trouble following or joining in a conversation. They might struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name.

Age related – Sometimes having trouble finding the right word but very able to engage in a conversation.

Changes in mood and personality: People with Alzheimer’s can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They might become easily upset.

Age related – Developing specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

If you are concerned about your memory, schedule a free screening. We wouldn’t dream of not having our heart tested if we were experiencing irregular heartbeats or were extremely fatigued. What is the difference when it comes to brain health?

Call 843-842-6688 for your appointment with one of our memory care specialists and stop worrying. You can also visit mymemorymatters.org for more information.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@mymemorymatters.org