Why Age-Related Memory Issues Can Be So Oddly Specific?

In summary, your father has an elderly, age-related cognitive decline and/or disease that we haven't officially diagnosed yet. He forgets to turn off the sink's running water a few times a month, and multiple family members have caught him doing this. He doesn't forget to turn off lights, doesn't forget to turn off the stove, doesn't forget to turn off the shower faucet, and generally doesn't have extreme cognitive impairment in other areas either. He remembers things well from many years ago, knows everyone's face and names, can still read without problem, and is generally fine. However, he has a "pet mistake" of forgetting to turn off the running water, and it's just so weird because
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kyphysics
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My father has some sort of elderly, age-related cognitive decline and/or disease (possibly dementia or Alzheimer's) that we haven't officially diagnosed yet (beyond his primary care physician simply saying that some cognitive decline is natural with age). One thing that puzzles me is why he forgets one thing in particular over and over again, but not much of other things.

Specifically, my dad forgets to turn off the sink faucet about two or three times a month. Multiple family members have caught him doing this over the past several years and when confronted, he is simply at a loss for words for why he forgot. He doesn't forget to turn off lights, doesn't forget to turn off the stove, doesn't forget to turn off the shower faucet, and generally doesn't have extreme cognitive impairment in other areas either. He remembers things well from many years ago, knows everyone's face and names, can still read without problem, and is generally fine. He's just overall "slower." He may read a bit slower, speak a bit slower, and walk a bit slower. But, his memory is mostly "okay" (for his age), except for this one area of forgetting to turn off the sink's running water a few times a month.

For those who have seen relatives go through age-related cognitive decline and/or disease, did you ever experience any weirdly idiosyncratic/highly specific areas of mental forgetfulness like this? And, if so, did you ever find out why?
 
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For this particular case I offer the following. I am not old (OK I'm 69) and have occasionally recently left the water running. Even though I am not old (OK I'm 69) I do not hear with same superhuman acuity I once had. Seriously I am sure that part of my "don't leave the water running" subroutine involved hearing the rushing water and likely the higher frequencies from it. My hypothesis.
Did I mention I'm not old?
 
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  • #3
hutchphd said:
For this particular case I offer the following. I am not old (OK I'm 69) and have occasionally recently left the water running. Even though I am not old (OK I'm 69) I do not hear with same superhuman acuity I once had. Seriously I am sure that part of my "don't leave the water running" subroutine involved hearing the rushing water and likely the higher frequencies from it. My hypothesis.
Did I mention I'm not old?
Thanks for sharing, hutchphd! Your "old" comments made me laugh. :-p I've heard humor keeps a heart young!

By the way, would you say the running water thing happens more than two or three times a month (that's about my dad's average)?

It's just so weird, because his memory is fine in so many other areas. It's like a "pet mistake" of his. . .

Had you not told me your age, by the way, I'd have thought you re in your 30's, 40's, or 50's, given your posting history here. You're both very active and intelligent, so I wouldn't have ever "noticed"...but, of course, you're not old! :smile:
 
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Memory is not a monolithic thing.
There are many examples of memory loss affecting different aspects of one's memory (specific subjects or skills to be remembered).
For example, long term vs. short term memory loss.
Not being able to form new memories, but have significant long term memories.
Memory loss and effects on mental function in general can have a lot of different causes: genetic mutation, expose to toxic chemicals, or various kinds of injury.

All this renders any long distance diagnosis questionable (but, interesting).
There are lots of books on these kinds of subjects (like the man who mistoke his wife for a hat, or the mind of nmemonist).

Nevertheless, I like @hutchphd's idea. Sensory reminders might not work so well any more.
Does this person have or need a hearing aid?
 
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  • #5
My mother-in-law has left the water running a couple of times. From what I've seen, she is getting frail and the force required to turn it off can be hard for her when she is tired. My guess is that she sometimes *thinks* that she pushed hard enough when she hasn't. Both times this happened, the faucet was nearly off but still running.
 
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My mother did a very good job of disguising or laughing off her initial confusions. The first indication we really registered was a confusion regarding time, which I've later read is quite common. She would get dressed and ready to go out to the shops when it was time to get ready for bed, and get up in the middle of the night. She used to comment that she didn't understand why it got so dark during the day. We weren't aware that these were signs of anything other than scattiness and general old age (and she lives quite far north, so the difference in daylight hours varies greatly through the year) and by the time we realized, the decline was quite quick.

Hopefully these warning signs will be more widely publicised as treatments in development are far more effective if used in the very early stages.
 
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kyphysics said:
except for this one area of forgetting to turn off the sink's running water a few times a month.
I'm of little help on your main question, but in order to mitigate this particular problem maybe consider installing a sink with foot-pedal operation. It literally cannot be left on by mistake. Here is an example of what I'm talking about (they are common in Fire Stations, which is where I first saw them):

1625931593984.png

https://im-7.eefa.co/ae-hsb-l-s7.jpg
https://www.kitchensource.com/kitchen-sinks/ae-xhsb.htm
 
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berkeman said:
I'm of little help on your main question, but in order to mitigate this particular problem maybe consider installing a sink with foot-pedal operation. It literally cannot be left on by mistake. Here is an example of what I'm talking about (they are common in Fire Stations, which is where I first saw them):

View attachment 285742
https://im-7.eefa.co/ae-hsb-l-s7.jpg
https://www.kitchensource.com/kitchen-sinks/ae-xhsb.htm
I have seen similar things in morgues and hospitals, places where you may not want to touch much, to avoid contamination.
Similarly public bathrooms are going to either spring loaded faucets that will automatically turn off or ones that turn on for a limited time due to sensors (to avoid touches and possible contamination).

Another fix for old people turning things (a problem my mother in law currently has) is to replace little door knobs with levers. The levers require less force to operate (physics) and don't even require a grip.

Before my Mom died of cancer, she had behavioral and memory symptoms from the cancer cells invading her brain. She would lose her way sometimes driving around and her handwriting deteriorated. This was temporarily fixed by irradiating her head, which killed the rapidly dividing cancer cells (not much else in the head divides rapidly).
 
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rsk said:
My mother did a very good job of disguising or laughing off her initial confusions.

Hopefully these warning signs will be more widely publicised as treatments in development are far more effective if used in the very early stages.
I can see it being a little embarrassing and/or some denial in response to those mishaps. I think telling your loved one you care about them and know it's not their fault (if medically related), but that you're just concerned about tracking their health is one way to handle these things.

I had heard my mom literally yelled at my father before (she's complained to us after the fact with various stories) and I do think that approach is just counter-productive and not right if it's unintentional and a medical issue. I did have a convo. w/ my mom (she's considerably younger than my father) to tell her that we should all take mental notes of things and keep a record to maybe bring up to the doctor during their semi-annual check-ups. ...It's just that in the past, the Dr. said it was just age-related memory issues (no disease diagnosis). But, like you said and others have mentioned to me too, it can be the start of something bigger later on and it's a good idea to track similar symptoms for research purposes and medical evaluation later.
 
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I might be the oldest (or very close to it) participant in this forum. My high-frequency hearing went south about six years ago. I cannot usually hear birds chirping for example. However, I can hear some things that I usually do not hear if I am aware that the sound could occur. I tend not to be as aware of low incidental sounds like I use to be and less aware of my surroundings. I can understand why this can contribute to cognitive decline.

To get to the relevant point. We have a cat that likes to crawl under our bed at night and will only come out when we are in bed. We feed him about 9 pm and close the bedroom door, usually. If I am the least distracted, TV program or computer work I might forget to close the door which one would think, since I find this so annoying, I would remember. This occurs more than a few times a month too. I have found that dwelling on such an issue as in describing this issue with you may help me remember. I have found this to work on other similar issues but I need some special context to do it. Just telling myself to remember does not seem to work very well. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the opportunity.

BTW, I have never had a great memory at least for non-critical/extraneous information. I was one of those persons that had to go back and check the door I had just locked.
 
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Is it all age related?
How many times have you seen a car with its interior light on, or headlights, draining the battery, for the owner to find out that his vehicle will not start in the morning? And these are not old people more often than not.
Forgetting things has a lot to do with distraction ( the distraction takes precedence over the present task at hand ), tunnel vision ( ie concentration on one task to the detriment of others ), rote and recipee ( not doing one step scrambles all the others down the line ).

So while there are age related issues with deterioration of the brain and its function, some simple thing such as thinking about 'my favourite show is just about to come on', may lend one to forget to flush the toilet, or forget to put the milk back in the fridge after pouring a glass, as one rushes to not miss a minute of the program.

Difficult to pin point an exact cause when confronted for anyone, since if one knew why one would never have done it in the first place.
 
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  • #13
At 69 I have left water running in the kitchen sink twice; a minute or two. Both times I was wearing Sony surround sound noise cancelling headphones. One time listening to "Game of Thrones" on Netflix; the second time, some flic on HBO/MAX. No aural clues plus distractions.
 
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Klystron said:
At 69 I have left water running in the kitchen sink twice; a minute or two. Both times I was wearing Sony surround sound noise cancelling headphones.
Puh! That's nothing! I managed to burn water at least twice!
 
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  • #15
fresh_42 said:
Puh! That's nothing! I managed to burn water at least twice!
Please, do not remind me. My adult daughter dozed off while steaming sticky rice in my favorite stock pot. Storing stock cures the stainless steel over time. The carbon and metal cup remains seemed annealed to what remained of the pot. Total loss.
 
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Related to Why Age-Related Memory Issues Can Be So Oddly Specific?

1. Why do age-related memory issues seem to affect specific memories rather than all memories?

As we age, our brains go through changes that can affect our memory. One of these changes is a decrease in the production of new brain cells, which can lead to a decline in memory function. However, this decline is not uniform across all types of memories. The specific memories that are affected can vary based on a person's individual experiences and the areas of the brain that are most impacted by aging.

2. What causes age-related memory issues to be oddly specific?

The exact cause of age-related memory issues is not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of factors may contribute to these oddly specific issues. These factors can include genetics, lifestyle choices, and changes in the brain's structure and function over time.

3. Can age-related memory issues be prevented?

While there is no way to completely prevent age-related memory issues, there are steps that can be taken to help maintain cognitive function as we age. These include staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy diet, and managing any chronic health conditions.

4. Are there any treatments for age-related memory issues?

Currently, there is no cure for age-related memory issues. However, there are treatments and strategies that can help manage symptoms and improve cognitive function. These can include medications, cognitive therapy, and lifestyle changes.

5. Is it normal to experience age-related memory issues?

Yes, it is normal to experience some degree of age-related memory decline as we get older. It is important to remember that everyone's memory function will decline at different rates and in different ways. If memory issues begin to significantly impact daily life, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment.

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