When should I talk with my doctor about memory concerns?

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By Angela J. Deokar, MPH
Public Health Advisor
CDC Healthy Aging Program/Healthy Brain Initiative

“Where did I put my ____ (fill in the blank)?” is a common question in many households, but as people age, questions like this begin to take on new meaning. About 73% of adults are concerned or very concerned about their memory worsening with age, and Americans fear Alzheimer’s disease more than any other condition (1, 2).

Understanding the difference between normal aging-related changes and changes due to Alzheimer’s disease can help you decide what to discuss with your health care provider. For example, losing things from time to time is part of normal aging, but misplacing things often and being unable to find them could be a sign of a more serious problem. Other examples from the National Institute on Aging include:

Alzheimer’s disease   Normal aging
Making poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time Making a bad decision once in a while
Problems taking care of monthly bills Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or time of year Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Trouble having a conversation Sometimes forgetting which word to use

If you are concerned about changes in memory or thinking in yourself or someone else, then it is worth talking about your concerns with a health care provider. Some changes can be caused by treatable conditions, such as medication side effects, vitamin B12 deficiency, and depression.

If Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia is the reason for the changes, then getting an early and accurate diagnosis provides opportunities for you to have important conversations so that you can make decisions about financial planning, advance directives, participation in research and care needs.

For more information, access: talking with your health care provider about memory or thinking concerns.


  1. Friedman DB, Rose ID, Anderson LA, et al. Beliefs and communication practices regarding cognitive functioning among consumers and primary care providers in the United States, 2009. Prev Chronic Dis 2013;10:120249.
  2. Marist Poll. Alzheimer’s most feared disease. Accessed on February 24, 2015.


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Page last reviewed: March 4, 2015
Page last updated: March 4, 2015