Is your memory loss more than normal aging?

Temporary lapses in memory can be frightening and worrisome.  Have you ever been unable to recall a co-worker’s name or where you put your car keys, phone, glasses, or remote?  Now imagine that happening every single day, negatively impacting your relationships, your job performance, and your mental health. Unfortunately, this is the reality of having a cognitive-communication deficit, like Alzheimer’s disease.

A cognitive-communication deficit can be categorized as a problem with memory, attention, language, organization, judgment, and/or critical thinking skills. (Click here to learn more about signs and symptoms of a cognitive-communication deficit: https://www.asha.org/slp/cognitive-referral/). It can coincide with diagnoses such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries, Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and many more. It can also be an unfortunate part of normal aging for certain individuals. For example, abilities that decline with age can include the following: recalling a list of items to purchase at the grocery store from memory, remembering where you learned a new fact, or remembering to take medicine before going to bed (Harada et al, 2013).

For the most part, there is a distinction between normal and abnormal cognitive changes when it comes to aging. According to the National Institute on Aging (2020), here are examples of key differences between normal aging and a cognitive disorder such as Alzheimer’s Disease:

Normal Aging Alzheimer’s Disease
Making a bad decision once in a while Making poor judgment and decisions a lot of the time
Missing a monthly payment Problems taking care of monthly bills
Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later Losing track of the date or time of year
Sometimes forgetting which word to use Trouble having conversation
Losing things from time to time Misplacing things often and being unable to find them

(National Institute on Aging, 2020)

To the surprise of many, speech language pathologists (SLPs) are experts in not only identifying these deficits but also creating personalized cognitive rehabilitation treatment plans for clients. Here are some examples of interventions and strategies that may be a part of a cognitive rehabilitation program:

  1. Memory Strategy Training: This may include using visual imagery or memory compensations, such as memory notebooks. (Cicerone et al, 2005; Cicerone et al, 2019)
  2. Metacognitive Strategy Training: This technique improves self-monitoring and self-regulating skills through repetitive cueing and breaking complex tasks in smaller, simpler steps. (Barman et al, 2016; Cicerone et al, 2019)
  3. Language Therapy: Whether there is physical difficulty verbalizing words or the inability to think of the correct word, SLPs can provide language therapy to address a person’s loss of language and implement temporary (or, in some cases, permanent) communication aids. (Cicerone et al, 2005; Cicerone et al, 2019)
  4. Intellectually Engaging Activities: The lifestyle-cognitive approach states that “maintaining an active lifestyle and engaging in certain activities… may help prevent age-associated cognitive decline and dementia”. These activities may include puzzles, discussion groups, reading, playing card or board games, and/or playing musical instruments. (Harada et al, 2013)

This is only the tip of the iceberg on what can be included in a cognitive rehabilitation program, but it gives you an idea of what tools we, as clinicians, have in our toolbox to help you in all the different areas that involve having a cognitive-communication deficit. If you are interested in more education on cognitive therapy click here or call 704-264-0528. 

Resurgence is getting ready to schedule a cognitive wellness group, that will use specific wellness strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.  If you are interested in this group, let us know by clicking here!

Until next time,


Barman A, Chatterjee A, & Bhide R. Cognitive Impairment and Rehabilitation Strategies After Traumatic Brain Injury. Indian J Psychol Med. 2016 May-Jun; 38(3): 172–181

Cicerone KD, Goldin Y, Ganci K, Rosenbaum A, Wethe JV, Langenbahn DM, et al. Evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation: Updated review of the literature from 2009 through 2014. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2019; 100:1515-33

Cicerone KD, Dahlberg C, Malec JF, Langenbahn DM, Felicetti T, Kneipp S, et al. Evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation: Updated review of the literature from 1998 through 2002. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2005;86:1681–92

Harada CN, Natelson Love MC, & Triebel K. Normal Cognitive Aging. Clin Geriatr Med. 2013 November; 29(4): 737-752National Institute on Aging. (2020, October 21). Memory, Forgetfulness, and Aging: What’s Normal and What’s Not? https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/memory-forgetfulness-and-aging-whats-normal-and-whats-not