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October 12 2016

Memory changes may be normal or signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease

Some memory loss is a normal part of aging, so how do you know when someone has a medical issue?

“Memory loss becomes significant when it starts to affect day-to-day activities,” said Michael Raster, MD, medical director of ProHealth Care’s behavioral health services. “With dementia, there might be something more serious going on: You might leave the stove on, have difficulty driving or take your medications incorrectly.”

As a board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Raster provides care to patients with dementia. He explained that dementia is a broad term used to describe a number of different conditions concerning memory and cognition (knowledge and understanding).

Dementia also can cause a person to appear to have problems with speaking, concentration or visual-spatial skills. He or she may even seem to have a different personality at times. “The majority of people have changes in their behavior due to their medical condition,” Dr. Raster said.

It’s important to understand what is normal and abnormal in a person’s cognition and behaviors and when a change should be medically addressed, he said.

People with age-related changes in memory and learning can continue to learn new things, create memories and improve their vocabulary and language skills, Dr. Raster said. However, when someone shows signs of depression and has behavioral symptoms such as agitation, wandering and delusions, it is very important to contact a health care professional.

“If someone has memory changes that are leading to unsafe activities, they should address their concerns with a health care provider,” Dr. Raster said. “Let your doctor know about any consequences of the memory loss that may be cause for concern. Strategies and treatments may be available to help.”

For more information about memory changes and Alzheimer's disease please visit ProHealthCare.org/services-brain-nerve-neuropsychology-service.aspx.


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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.