Memory Loss With Aging: What’s Normal, What’s Not

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How does the brain store information?

Information is stored in different parts of your memory. Information stored in the short-term memory may include the name of a person you met moments ago. Information stored in the recent memory may include what you ate for breakfast. Information stored in the remote memory includes things that you stored in your memory years ago, such as memories of childhood.

How does aging change the brain?

Beginning when you’re in your 20s, you begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make less of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. The older you are, the more these changes can affect your memory.  Aging may affect memory by changing the way your brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information.

Your short-term and remote memories aren’t usually affected by aging. But your recent memory may be affected. You may forget names of people you’ve met recently. These are normal changes.

Things to help you remember

  • Keep lists.
  • Follow a routine.
  • Make associations (connect things in your mind), such as using landmarks to help you find places.
  • Keep a detailed calendar.
  • Put important items, such as your keys, in the same place every time.
  • Repeat names when you meet new people.
  • Do things that keep your mind and body busy.
  • Run through the ABC’s in your head to help you think of words you’re having trouble remembering. “Hearing” the first letter of a word may jog your memory.

How can I tell if my memory problems are serious?

A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget names, you’re probably okay. But you may have a more serious problem if you have trouble remembering how to do things you’ve done many times before, getting to a place you’ve been to often, or doing things that use steps, like following a recipe.

Another difference between normal memory problems and dementia is that normal memory loss doesn’t get much worse over time. Dementia gets much worse over several months to several years.

It may be hard to figure out on your own if you have a serious problem. Talk to your family doctor about any concerns you have. Your doctor may be able to help you if your memory problems are caused by a medicine you’re taking or by depression.

Other Organizations

National Institute on Aging Information Center


making better healthcare decisions is more than flipping a coin

How will health care decisions be made if you no longer have the ability to make such decisions for yourself?

This is typically accomplished through the execution of an advance directive. An advance directive is a written or oral instruction relating to the provision of health care when an adult becomes incapacitated.


The Patient’s Right

New York has long recognized that an adult of sound mind has the right to consent to or refuse a recommended treatment. In several cases decided during the 1980s, the New York Court of Appeals established that the right of competent adults to refuse medical treatment, including life sustaining treatment, is protected under both the Due Process Clause of the State Constitution and the common law right of informed consent.

Where the patient is unable to make decisions, such treatment may be withheld only if there is clear and convincing evidence of the patient’s wishes. No one, not even a family member, may authorize the withdrawal or withholding of medical treatment for an incompetent patient in the absence of such clear and convincing evidence.

The clear and convincing evidence standard is an extremely difficult one to meet, however. In part because of the difficulty of this standard and in part to address a range of issues arising from advances in medical technology, New York adopted the Health Care Proxy Law. The law became effective on January 18, 1991 and grants competent adults the right to appoint someone they trust to make decisions about medical treatment on their behalf. The appointment is made on a health care proxy form, sometimes referred to as a health care power of attorney. The person appointed to make health care decisions is known as a health care agent.

Legal Requirements for Designating a Health Care Agent

The health care proxy form must:

  • Identify the principal (person making the appointment);
  • Identify the person being appointed as health care agent;
  • State that the principal intends the agent to have authority to make health care decisions on the principal’s behalf; and,
  • Be signed and dated by the principal in the presence of two adult witnesses who also must sign the proxy.

Another person may sign on behalf of the principal if the principal is unable to do so provided the signing is at the principal’s direction, in the principal’s presence, and in the presence of two adult witnesses.


Frequently Asked Question

  1. How do I revoke a health care proxy?
    •  A health care proxy can be revoked by:
      • Notifying the agent or a health care provider, orally or in writing or by some other act evidencing an intent to revoke the proxy; or,
      • Executing a subsequent health care proxy; or,
      • Where the health care agent is the principal’s spouse, upon divorce or legal separation from the spouse.

Memorial for Carol Kamine-Brown

COHME, Inc. honors the memory of our Director Emeritis Carol Kamine-Brown who was able to further build on  the vision of our founder Lucy Rosengarten to ensure that COHME and the clients and home health aides can flourish and thrive. As Executive Manager for COHME for over 14 years , Carol brought her social work skills and business sense to her role and helped to ensure COHME’s success . Carol had extensive experience with the elderly and cognitively impaired population within the homecare as well as the hospital setting and brought a wealth of skills and caring to the agency.  As we continue to provide rewarding opportunities to the home health aides, a scholarship in Carol Kamine-Brown’s name has been set-up by COHME’s Board of Directors to provide our home health aides with financial assistance towards completing  degrees in nursing school, training for being a  Certified Nursing Aide, and  support towards traveling expenses.

Carol was a dedicated and caring person who to the end was very focused on COHME’s mission of providing home care with the highest  standards. She tirelessly promoted the provision of excellent home care to the frail and elderly in New York City, while providing excellent jobs for our employees.

To conclude I leave you with something Carol would tell me from time to time… “You can always give the love, the care, and the support that you may not have received and you will always be better in the end because life is full of adventure.” And she encouraged the staff to embrace it.

If you would like to donate to COHME and to the Carol Kamine Brown scholarship please see the donation link posted on the website.

Nicole Mazyck-Sellers


Awards and Testimonials


COHME’s dedication to the support of its home health aides has received special mention in the prestigious ElderCareGiving website.

sample Ms. Joanna Leefer writes, “An unencumbered aide is a better aide and more loyal to an agency that takes her welfare into consideration. Agencies like COHME are developing programs to remedy the aide’s problems. COHME has gone so far as to hire a social worker devoted to working with the aides. They have found suitable housing, gotten them on food stamps, and found proper health care for them and their families.”

ElderCareGiving is a web site that helps seniors and their families find the best possible senior care alternatives.