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Confusion, Memory Loss, and Altered Alertness (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

As you age, it is normal to experience some memory lapses. Usually, an occasional memory lapse does not mean you have a serious problem. Try these steps to help improve your memory:

  • Focus your attention. Often forgetfulness may mean that you have too much on your mind. Slow down and pay full attention to the task you are doing now.
  • Stick to a routine. Complete common tasks in the same order each time you do them.
  • Structure your environment to help improve your memory.
    • Use calendars and clocks.
    • Use lists, notes, and other helpful devices as reminders.
    • Write your daily activities on a calendar or daily planner, and keep it in a place where you can see it easily.
    • Store easy-to-lose items in the same place each time after you use them. For example, install a hook by the door and hang your keys from it every time you come in.
  • Try memory tricks, such as the following:
    • To remember a person's name, repeat it several times after being introduced.
    • To recall numbers, group them and then relate them to a date or story. For example, if your personal identification number (PIN) is 2040, remember it with the phrase "20 plus 20 equals 40." Be sure to write down all your important numbers and keep them in a safe place.
    • Retrace your steps if you can't remember why you went into a room.
  • Reduce your stress. Being anxious can impair your memory. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Review all your prescription and nonprescription medicines and dosages with your doctor or pharmacist. Many medicines, by themselves or in combination with other medicines, can cause mental confusion. Also, confusion may occur when medicines interact in your body. If you see several doctors, make sure that they all know what other medicines you are taking. Have all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the combination of your medicines could cause problems.

Ginkgo biloba is a popular herbal treatment for memory problems. But studies have not shown that ginkgo biloba helps improve memory or prevent dementia.1 Before you use any treatment for a memory problem, discuss the potential risks and benefits of the treatment with your doctor.

Living with a family member who has a decline in memory, problem-solving ability, learning ability, or judgment (dementia) is hard. To ensure your family member's health and safety, give him or her short instructions when teaching a new task. Break the task down into simple steps. You may find it helpful to give the person written instructions.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

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