A white Christmas - a holiday in New York or overlooking the Tuscan countryside - the birth of a first child
All of these events which frame our lives and depict us as individual human beings are indeed built from our library of unique and very personal memories. They outline our experiences, the people we know, the things we’ve done, how we think….
In short - they define who we are!
Our memories can be triggered by many of our senses ...
a Beatles song comes on the radio and takes you back to a holiday you took with friends in the "swinging sixties"!
the taste of a cream soda your grandchild shares with you instantly transports you back to a summer fete and the long hot summers of your childhood.
wandering around a garden centre, you stop to smell a flowering honeysuckle and instantly recall the house and garden of your early marriage where your first child was born……
When things go wrong:
As we age, the memory, similarly to other parts of the body, is not as efficient as it used to be and forgetfulness becomes more commonplace.
These ‘Senior Moments’ we all laugh about are infrequent but manageable occurrences- the inability to recall someone’s name or forgetting where you’ve put the car keys; this ‘benign forgetfulness’ can also be part of normal ageing – we attempt to describe the object or person in discussion and as soon as a clue is given, we are instantly able to pull out the word we wanted.
But when the ability to remember things affects daily functioning and lifestyle, and is cause for concern for you, family and friends, it’s time to seek help.
It is determining the difference between normal ageing and onset of Dementia that is crucial and formal testing of other cognitive functioning as well as memory can determine what is, and isn’t age related.
It should be explicitly stated that not everyone who becomes forgetful develops dementia, and neither is dementia a normal consequence of ageing.
Your brain is a complex structure
and works very similarly to a computer, ‘saving’ and ‘filing’ various pieces of information in different parts of the organ. Thousands of these facts and figures are stored away ready to be ‘recalled’ and used at a later date.
As we age this ‘recall’ process often becomes less efficient- remembering where we have left the car keys or recollecting the dentist phone number may become more problematic. It is this initial 'stumbling' over words and failing of Short Term Memory at an early stage that indicates something may be wrong.
How many times do we joke about these ‘senior moments’? Most people fall victim to incidents at some time or other and in most cases can attribute it to tiredness, overwork, lack of concentration…maybe depression, anxiety….. too many things happening all at once in a busy life.
But if it is a persistent deterioration in memory causing difficulties in for example, word selection, conversation, problem solving, that frequently affects daily living- preventing you engaging in activities you previously assumed as 'normal'- it needs reviewing and assessing.
Alzheimers Disease affects about 496,000 people in the UK and is a physical disease affecting the brain. Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles develop in the brain causing the death of healthy neurons.
It is estimated that these pathological brain changes develop over some 20-30 years before signs and symptoms are detected (World Alzheimer Report 2011), with earliest signs around the base of the brain in the fifth decade of life; plaques and tangles then spread up to involve cortical regions progressively
"Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream."