Maybe you forgot to pay your water bill this month. Or maybe you can’t seem to remember the name of your new neighbor who just introduced themselves yesterday. Is this normal? Or should you be concerned?

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), as we grow older, some memory loss is completely normal, especially once you pass the age of 50. So, if you forget a name, or appointment every now and then, it’s no reason to rush over to the doctors or to be worried.

But Alzheimer’s is a very real, and concerning disease, and it can be difficult to distinguish between what types of memory loss are normal and which to be concerned about.

The NIA recommends watching for the symptoms listed below as signs that your memory loss is something abnormal.

  1. Asking the same question repeatedly in the same setting

Do people often say that you just asked that question? Or maybe that they just finished explaining to you and you’re asking again? This may be affecting your everyday life more than you know as it may be taking more time to accomplish tasks.

Not only that, but you may find people don’t want to be around you anymore because they find it annoying to explain the same thing over and over again. If this is something you experience, it may be time to talk to your doctor as this can be a sign of a serious memory impairment.

  1. Getting lost somewhere familiar

If you find yourself lost driving a route that you’ve driven hundreds of times before or even if you can’t seem to find your way out of your neighborhood supermarket, this is not a good sign. Getting lost in familiar places is a symptom of a number of memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and it can be dangerous, especially if you are unable to find your way home.

  1. Following instructions becomes difficult

Everyone knows the struggle of assembling something while following the cryptic instructions you find in the box. But this isn’t about being unable to put something together, this is when you read a step of the instructions, go to follow it, but then find you’ve already forgotten the step you were supposed to perform. This is a sign of short-term memory loss which is a definite sign of a larger underlying memory impairment.

  1. Confusion regarding the time, the place, or people you should recognize

This final symptom can be hard to watch out for when it comes to taking care of your own health because by the time you can’t recognize familiar people or places that you should, you probably have a severe memory impairment. This symptom also could include mixing up words which shouldn’t be confused, for example asking for juice when you wanted a blanket. This fourth sign is something more for those of you reading this that suspect a friend or family is suffering from memory decline. Regardless, if this sign rings true for you or someone else, it’s definitely time to seek professional help.

Memory loss can be scary, but it’s important to remember that not all memory loss is an immediate death sentence like Alzheimer’s, in fact you could just be suffering from something known as MCI or Mild Cognitive Impairment.

MCI is classified as losing items often, difficulty “finding” words, and forgetting appointments. Additionally, memory loss can be caused by a number of things besides ageing, such as medication, depression, or even an infection.

So, it’s important not to be scared when you have memory issues, but rather reach out for help to try and find the cause. Talk to your doctor.

And always keep in mind that simply missing an appointment or misplacing something every once in a while, is okay, and no reason to be worried.