Our frontal lobes help us to pay attention, store and retrieve information, and organize our memories. But older frontal lobes tend to break down with age, making it harder to concentrate, learn or recall information.
Because the difference between normal and abnormal memory loss is most often related to the extent of the forgetfulness, here are some instances that could indicate a more serious memory problem (according to a professional).
You forget things even though you were paying attention
One common cause of forgetfulness is not paying ample attention when the memory was being formed—talking in class when a new topic is presented, or sitting on your phone when a friend is telling you a story. But if you are focusing on the moment at hand and still forgetting things, it might be a sign of a more significant issue.
You don’t remember something, even once given an obvious clue
Difficulty retrieving information can be normal, and it is increasingly more common as we age. Luckily, cues that can trigger our memory for the information we need can be very helpful in coping with this problem. However, it is not normal to fail to recall information we learned when we are provided with strong cues, either from ourselves or from others.
You fail to recall or recognize something (or someone) you once knew well
There’s a reason why you can probably remember every lyric to your favorite tune as a child, but not the words to that song you learned last year. That’s because our mind processes these things as long-term memories, just like knowing the directions from work to home, or the names of your children in age-order. If you’re consistently struggling to recall or recognize what you know well, it might be a symptom of a larger problem.
You keep losing items that are important to you
Be that for sentimental reasons or sheer necessity, the items that are most important to us tend to be the ones we focus most on not losing. If you’re repeatedly misplacing the objects you care most about, like keys and wallets, or mom’s necklace and your lucky charm, it could be an early sign of a memory problem.
All the people around you remember shared events much better than you do
Some things are just more memorable than others. It can be difficult to recall the ordinary in life, like who you saw at the restaurant last week or what you did last Saturday. But if it seems like everyone’s memory is working better than yours (think: he remembers that you ran into that good mutual friend at the restaurant, or she reminds you that it was the day of your neighbor’s birthday party), then it just might be true. Chances are if others can remember, it was probably noteworthy enough that you should remember, too.
Seven Steps to Manage Your Memory by Andrew E. Budson, MD, and Maureen K. O’Connor, PsyD.