Brain health: When memory issues should become cause for concern

Jun 29, 2022, 12:05 PM | Updated: 1:53 pm

NORTH OGDEN, Utah — For Steve Jeffs, each day feels a lot like the day before – and the one before that.

His wife Joy, his partner of 57 years, has severe dementia.

“There’s really nothing she can do by herself,” he said. “Most of the time, she has no idea where she is or what’s going on.”

The daily routine may feel repetitive, but in their North Ogden home, sweet memories abound.

“She was an avid reader, and she would read two or three books a week,” Jeffs recalls. “As time went on, she was able to do fewer and fewer things.”

Steve is a full-time caregiver for his wife. He appreciates the support from friends and family. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)

Over the years, the couple has visited over 70 countries together.

“I was keeping track of them on a world map,” Jeffs said.

It was during one of their vacations, aboard a cruise ship in Alaska in 2015, when Jeffs became concerned for his wife. What had until then seemed like normal signs of aging suddenly became troublesome.

Dr. Kevin Duff is a clinical neuropsychologist and professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Utah. He says families should learn to recognize common examples of forgetfulness or minor memory loss.

“Struggling for a name of a person that you haven’t seen for a long time, that’s very normal,” Duff said. “But when we start to struggle for names of people that we see on a more regular basis, then that can be more of a sign of concern.”

There are definitely more serious signs.

“The person who’s regularly forgetting, say, to take their heart medication, and that’s starting to negatively affect their health, that’s much more a sign for concern,” he said.

Dr. Kevin Duff is a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Utah Health’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)

Doctors consider if cognitive decline is interfering with daily functioning when considering a diagnosis.

“They may make a diagnosis that there’s a problem here, like mild cognitive or even dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and then may prescribe some type of intervention to try to slow down the progression of those difficulties,” Duff said.

If you’re concerned about a loved one, make an appointment with a primary care physician. Doctors can do cognitive tests and look for other factors, including depression.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, doctors say brain health is a lifelong commitment. They stress the importance of regular brain-building activities like physical exercise, cognitive stimulation and social engagement.

While no longer traveling far from home, nothing slows down Jeffs’ commitment, devotion and love for his wife Joy.

“Every night when I put her to bed, I give her a kiss and say her name and tell her that I love her,” he said.

Steve and Joy Jeffs have been married for 57 years. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)

An eternal optimist, Jeffs admits he mostly needs more time for himself. He encourages people to show support for friends and caregivers who just need someone to talk to.

“The best thing for me was the neighbors and the friends helping me, talking to me.”

AARP Utah has information about Caregiver Support Groups and activities for seniors on their website.

KSL 5 TV Live

Positively 50+

AARP tax preparation...

Dan Spindle

AARP volunteers offer free tax help for seniors

Summer, winter, spring, or fall - No matter which season is your favorite, we can all agree that tax season is the worst.

8 days ago

We’re all looking for ways to stretch our finances through discounts and deals but for those who ...

Dan Spindle

Positively 50+: Tax Circuit Breaker and Renter Relief

We’re all looking for ways to stretch our finances through discounts and deals but for those who are a little older and on a fixed income, the need is that much greater. There is a lesser-known state program to help seniors out to the tune of hundreds of dollars.

23 days ago

A person putting money into a charity bucket....

Dan Spindle

Positively 50+: Protecting yourself against ‘charity scams’

As it's the most giving time of year, it's good to make sure that you are donating to the right places for the right causes.

2 months ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Dan Spindle

Helpers with mobile pantry at Midvale Elementary know need has no season

Around the holidays so many of us start thinking about giving our time and talents to those who need it the most. But for volunteers with the Utah Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry, it’s a need that knows no season.

3 months ago

(KSL TV)...

Dan Spindle

Suazo Business Center is helping get people’s ideas up and going

If you have an idea, and don't know where to start, the Suazo Business Center can offer you the help you need.

4 months ago

One of the volunteers of the Foster Grandparents holding up a promotional sign....

Dan Spindle and Michael Houck, KSL TV

P50+: A lasting legacy of learning

A national volunteer program is looking for more grandmas and grandpas to help the nation's youth with their growth.

5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Brain health: When memory issues should become cause for concern