Memory loss becomes increasingly common as we age. Forgetting an important date or a person’s name happens to everyone so when do you know when it could be something more? Seniors with significant memory loss are at high risk for injury as they struggle to remember their surroundings or manage their medication. Wandering alone is a common symptom of dementia that can be extremely dangerous. Recognizing the signs can be difficult, here are some important distinguishing factors between common memory loss and severe cognitive decline:


Conversations and Speech

Watch for unwarranted changes in tone or speed. Agitation is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s or dementia and can be harmful to relationships when unrecognized. Take note if you sense the quality of conversation changing over time. If they start to sound like a different person, it may come from an altered state of mind. If the behavior seems out of character, consult with a healthcare provider.

Physical Appearance

Basic hygiene often becomes more difficult as cognitive decline takes place. Pay attention to their clothing and overall environment, cleanliness and overall upkeep. Unsanitary conditions are tell-tale signs it is time to talk about alternative living options. How often do they change their clothes or brush their teeth? Weight loss also occurs as seniors are unable to cook for themselves or even forget to eat. An unsafe living condition, like a messy kitchen with expired food, is a serious concern. There are several senior healthcare programs that provide consistent, well-rounded, and nutritional meals; however residential care will guarantee daily nutrition.


When you walk through the door of your loved one, does it still feel like you’re visiting a happy and comfortable home? The state of their environment is extremely important to their health ad overall wellbeing. The general state of their home will likely be the most obvious sign your loved one is struggling to live independently.


Mixing up medications, over-or under-medicating, or failing to stick to strict medical schedules can have major effects on your loved one’s health. Senior living communities take care of those problems and help keep a record of their medical history. This way you know without a doubt their medications are taken on-time and correctly. These communities also have a direct connection with health professionals that ensure you stay up-to-date on any new information.

Social Interactions

Seniors often become more isolated as they remain in their home; however, social withdrawal is another important sign. Do they still mention their close friends or maintain relationships with neighbors? If they were members of a club or team, check in to see how often they are still attending those meetings. Being social is a booster to the mind, body, and soul for many seniors. Studies indicate that senior with more social interactions experienced slower cognitive decline compared to those with isolated lifestyles.


Senior care communities work tirelessly to adapt to the changing needs of those suffering from memory loss. Recognizing the signs will help you as you consider assisted living, nursing homes, memory care, and other care services. Although nursing homes or memory care are often the best options for many, assisted living facilities with memory care branches can help ease the process of moving into more involved care. Discuss your options with a doctor to receive a proper diagnosis and recommendations for care. This allows you and your family to seek the proper information and make the next step in providing safe, affordable care.


The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material found on this website is intended to promote and encourage consumer understanding and should not be considered alternative or supplementary medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your health or physical condition, seek the advice of a licensed qualified healthcare provider. Be sure to discuss any changes or concerns with your doctor before beginning a new healthcare regimen, undergoing any procedures, or changing current healthcare plans. Seniors and Health does not claim medical representation and assumes no responsibility in the accuracy of the information available on this website.

To learn about other common health concerns among senior, check out our Health and Conditions page; we also provide information on senior care options on our Assisted Living page.

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About the Author: John Winfrey Jr. received his Bachelor’s in 2015 from the University of North Texas after spending much of his 20’s traveling across the country. Majoring in Marketing and minoring in Journalism gave him the experience needed to write and research important topics like senior health. Senior health especially hits home as his veteran father was a senior who eventually became deaf and blind. John had to become as familiar as he could, quickly, to provide support for his father.