Needing a Little Help from Their Friends

Memory loss or confusion relatively common among older adults living on their own

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Even if adults over age 65 are living on their own, they still may be experiencing memory problems or confusion. Many of these adults may also need help for daily activities.

A recent study reported that approximately 1 in every 8 adults over age 65 has experienced confusion or increased memory loss in the past 12 months.

The rates were highest among those who were unemployed, unable to work or disabled.

Less than half of those who said they were experiencing difficulties with everyday activities were receiving help from friends or family members.

"Discuss memory problems with your family doctor."

This study, led by Mary L. Adams, MPH, of On Target Health Data LLC working for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at how common memory problems and confusion were occurring among elderly adults living independently.

The researchers gathered data from 21 states among 59,852 adults aged 60 and older in the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey.

Overall, 12.7 percent of the survey responders said they had experienced increased confusion or memory loss within the past year.

Just over a third of these individuals (35 percent) reported that they had also experienced difficulties with everyday functions, such as work, household chores, volunteering or social activities.

Those aged 85 and older comprised the largest group reporting confusion or memory loss: 15.6 percent of adults aged 85 and older reported increasing memory problems, compared to 12 percent of those aged 60 to 64 and 11.9 percent of those aged 65 to 74.

The researchers also found differences based on race, educational background and other characteristics.

For example, 16.2 percent of those with less than a high school education reported having memory loss or confusion in the past 12 months, compared to 12.5 of those with a high school diploma and 10.9 percent of college graduates.

Meanwhile, 16.9 percent of Hispanics and Latinos reported memory loss or confusion in the past year, compared to 12.1 percent of whites.

Among those unable to work, 28.3 percent reported experiencing memory loss or confusion, compared to 7.8 percent of those employed, 12.3 percent who were retired, 16.4 percent of those unemployed, 11.8 percent who were homemakers and 3.9 percent who were students.

A higher percentage of disabled respondents (20.2 percent) reported having memory loss or confusion than those who were not disabled (7.5 percent).

There were also differences based on the individuals' states. The lowest rate of memory loss or confusion reported was in Tennessee with 6.4 percent. The highest, 20 percent, was in Arkansas.

Unsurprisingly, those who said they had difficulties with everyday functions also reported needing more help than those who didn't.

Among the adults reporting memory loss or confusion in the past year, 81 percent of those who had functional difficulties and 38.2 percent of those who did not have those difficulties said they needed help.

About 46.5 percent of those who said they had functional difficulties were getting help from a family member or friend, and a third of them (32.6 percent) had discussed their memory or confusion problems with a healthcare provider.

The report was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report May 10.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 9, 2013
Last Updated:
September 20, 2013