Just like the rest of your body, your brain changes as you age. Sometimes those changes are normal and relatively minor, such as forgetting a word or a person’s name. In a small number of adults, however, those changes are indicative of something more severe that can affect your daily life and decision making. That’s concerning from a health standpoint, but also because a misstep with your financial or legal affairs could derail your retirement. How can you spot the difference between a normal cognitive change and something more serious? Below is a list of 15 potential indicators of cognitive decline. Again, we’ve all experienced the occasional item on the list, but if you suspect something more serious than that (either with yourself or someone you love), it might be worthwhile to have a conversation with your doctor.
- Difficulty with daily tasks such as housework, paying bills or following a recipe
- Forgetting important dates or events
- Getting lost while walking or driving in a familiar area
- Forgetting how to play games that you’ve always enjoyed
- Difficulty participating in a favorite hobby or sport
- Frequently losing or misplacing items
- Losing track of the day, week, month or seasons
- Difficulty remembering words
- Difficulty carrying on a conversation
- Difficulty planning
- Trouble with familiar tasks or simple concepts
- Disorganized files, documents or checkbook
- Decline in personal hygiene
- Mood swings or depression
- Mental fog or confusion
Again, if you suspect that you or someone you love might be suffering from cognitive decline, meet with your doctor for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. And meet with your advisers to make sure that your financial and legal affairs (e.g. will, trust, powers of attorney) are in order.
And don’t forget about prevention. Your health is going to change as you age. It’s unavoidable. But there are things you can do to help maintain your cognitive health. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you stay physically and mentally active, eat a healthy diet, maintain social connections, and manage risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. In short, take care of yourself and you’ll greatly increase your odds of having a healthy, happy retirement.