Is it normal to forget the day?

I was sitting comfortably in my reading chair one morning, my cat Fanny on my lap, my phone off. At around 10:35, I suddenly jumped up, toppling Fanny. It had occurred to me that it was Friday and that a Zoom call with my mother was scheduled for 9:30 and online Scrabble with my friend Sandie for 10.

“I forgot what day it is!” I apologized to my siblings and Sandie. It was too late for the Zoom call, but Sandie graciously offered to play Scrabble then. During her turns, I googled, “Is forgetting what day it is a sign of impending dementia?”

It’s no small matter when your mother is suffering with dementia and you wonder whether you’re destined for the same fate.

Fortunately, I found reassurance. “Once in a while, we all forget what day of the week it is, but we usually remember or figure it out quickly,” says Johns Hopkins Medicine. “[I]t’s common for a person to briefly forget which day it is,” echoes the Caregiver Connection.

Whew! Of course it’s not guaranteed that I’ll be spared from dementia, but at least I might not have to worry yet.

I suspect that most “young olds,” as some researchers have classified those of us between 65 and 74, worry about memory changes even if they don’t have a parent with dementia.

Maybe you too want to tamp down the fears. Here are some questions I looked into after that recent memory lapse. The answers came from web pages of the National Institute of health, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Medical School.

Is dementia hereditary?

An umbrella term for various types of cognitive impairment including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia has multiple risk factors, one of which is genetics. Not all causes of dementia are known. Possessing certain gene variants can increase your risk but does not guarantee that you will develop dementia. The genes’ interaction with certain environmental and social factors is also involved. 

How do you tell normal memory glitches from impending dementia?

It’s normal for aging people to occasionally forget appointments and names and to misplace items. Memory problems that impede everyday functioning are more problematic. Examples of everyday functioning include conversing, using the phone, finding your way home, following recipes and directions, recognizing close friends and relatives, and taking care of your health and hygiene. 

Is there anything you can do about prevention anyhow?

You cannot do anything about age, the greatest known risk factor, or your genes. Researchers have not yet identified lifestyle factors that will definitely prevent dementia, but findings about exercise, blood pressure control, and mental activity are promising. Treatment for mild cognitive decline is limited. Drugs that slow the progression of memory loss are intended for moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

Should I be tested if a parent or a sibling has dementia?

Tests can show whether you have inherited the related gene variants but not your likelihood of developing dementia. You may want to participate in a research study that involves testing, but genetic counselors currently do not recommend routine genetic testing. In a statement, the Alzheimer’s Association “cautions against routine genetic testing … until an individual has received proper counseling and understands the information necessary to make an informed decision, including the social and economic factors that could be impacted by having this genetic information.”

Would I want to know that I carry a “dementia gene”? Since possessing the gene doesn’t necessarily forecast dementia, what would be the point of knowing? Better to focus on the present, which is all any of us has for certain. 

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  • This is a great example of how blogs give us room to consider things by writing about them. Thank you. I slip on days sometimes, too -- more since the pandemic, of course. I find that listening to the radio in the morning helps. WBBM-AM offers frequent time checks, and WGN-AM has features that are linked to each weekday. Meanwhile, hang onto those later-morning habits that'll keep telling you the day.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I'm usually reading the newspaper the first thing in the morning, but (incredibly) I must not have noted the date!

  • Well, at 80, you've got to watch the date you put on checks. Might get the year wrong.

  • I've done that, especially in January and February.

  • In reply to Marianne Goss:

    Dennis and Marianne, I have to be careful about the date for the first few days of every month! Like the weeks, I find the radio useful because it's telling me where we are on the calendar.

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