Cognitive Issues that Can Plague Older Adults

Mar 22, 2024
 Cognitive Issues that Can Plague Older Adults
As you get older, it’s possible you may notice signs of cognitive decline at some point. Here are some of the most common cognitive issues that affect the elderly and the causes behind them.

Cognitive decline in older adults refers to a deficit in a person’s thinking, memory, concentration, and other brain functions beyond what’s generally expected due to aging. It may develop suddenly or gradually, and it can be temporary or permanent.

Mental health issues may also be involved. The most common problems among the senior population are depression, dementia, and anxiety. Depression and dementia (not to be confused with mild cognitive impairment) affect 5% to 7%, respectively, of the over-60 population. Anxiety is a close runner-up; the World Health Organization (WHO) reports it affects 3.8% of older adults.

Cognitive issues can also arise from physical disorders or surgical interventions. It’s common to see a cognitive decline in the elderly with each succeeding diagnosis/procedure.

Health care providers, especially primary care and family physicians like Dr. Richard Pedroza at AGP Family Health Clinic, help prevent cognitive decline, as well as promote good mental health for seniors, by working with mental health professionals, families, local governments, civil society organizations, and communities to ensure care is not only available, but also that it takes place in a supportive environment.

In addition, cognitive symptoms may occur from an underlying health issue that affects how the mind functions.‌ It’s possible that treating the underlying issue will resolve at least some of the symptoms. Talk with Dr. Pedroza about your concerns.

What is mild cognitive impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is part of the natural aging process, and it shouldn’t be confused with dementia, a physical deterioration of the brain that affects function. MCI also isn’t related to any particular mental health condition; it’s simply an advanced form of memory loss.

People with MCI are usually able to care for themselves, but they may need some form of organizational system to help them track where they put objects, remember appointments, and take their medications and communicate effectively.

MCI may or may not proceed to the onset of dementia, so it’s important to keep track of memory issues to determine if your cognitive abilities are, in fact, declining.

Cognitive issues common in older adults

Your brain, along with the rest of your body, changes as you age. It's common to notice an increase in forgetfulness, such as taking longer to think of a word or recall a friend’s name. However, if you have consistent or increasing concern about your mental performance, it may suggest cognitive decline. Some signs include:

  • ‌Forgetting things more often than not
  • Forgetting important appointments or social engagements
  • Losing your train of thought or a thread of conversation
  • Having difficulty following the narrative of a book or movie
  • Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions
  • Having difficulty understanding instructions or planning a task
  • Getting lost in familiar environments
  • Increased impulsivity poor judgment

Perhaps the greatest indicator is when your family and friends start noticing and commenting on changes in your behavior and start taking steps to ensure your well-being and protection.

What causes cognitive decline?

Challenges with memory, thought, or any other brain processes usually stem from more than one cause. Some of the most common causes include:


The elderly usually take more medications than their younger counterparts due to multiple chronic conditions, leading to an aggregate of side effects and potential interactions. Dr. Pedroza can help you with medication management, so you always know what to take when, and you can be confident you won’t have any unexpected problems.

Blood chemistry

Kidney or liver dysfunction can cause imbalances in your blood chemistry, sometimes affecting brain function and leading to decline.


As you age, your sense of thirst declines, which means you’re probably not drinking enough to be properly hydrated. Dehydration and the chemical imbalances it causes directly lead to cognitive decline.


Delirium includes confused thinking and reduced awareness of your surroundings. It’s widespread in hospitalized older adults, and in those not hospitalized, it may happen due to infection or other health problems.

Psychiatric conditions

As we’ve said before, mental health problems can be directly linked to a decline in cognitive function. Most psychiatric conditions lead to problems with memory, thinking, or concentration for all age groups, but especially in the at-risk elderly population.

Neurodegenerative conditions

Neurodegenerative diseases can directly impact cognition. The best-known diseases in this category come with increasing age, including Alzheimer's disease, Lewy-Body disease, Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal degeneration (damage and loss of nerve cells in the brain), and vascular dementia.

If you’re noticing the beginnings of cognitive issues and are concerned about what this means, speak with Dr. Pedroza about how to proceed. To get started, call AGP Family Clinic in Tomball, Texas at 832-861-0393, or book your appointment online with us today.