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

Top Stories

Positively 50+

Ayanna Likens

Moab woman receives award for helping build affordable housing

Home and rent prices continue to rise across Utah, and in the Moab, it's become a crisis. But one woman is trying to fix that.
2 months ago
In the last two elections women over 50 made up 30% of the overall voter turnout. (AARP)...
Ayanna Likens

Women voters over 50 are a crucial voting bloc in the upcoming election

A new survey from AARP revealed that women voters over 50 are a crucial part of the election turnout.
4 months ago
Ayanna Likens

New bill helps seniors with the rise in property taxes

The rise in property taxes is affecting seniors’ that are on a fixed income, but local lawmakers created a bill to help combat it.
4 months ago
Dan Spindle and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV

Positively 50+: Refreshing your driving skills, learning new ways to handle Utah’s often difficult traffic

The rules of the road change all the time, as does the technology automakers stuff in our cars. Even our senses and reflexes are not immune from change as we pass the half-century mark. So, for Positively 50+, here's how we can stay on top of our driving game.
6 months ago
At 68, Utah woman Mary Crafts is at her healthiest – and she didn't start her healthy eating jour...
Shara Park & Madison Swenson, KSL TV

Utah woman encourages older adults to cook healthy

By following a few simple tips, older Utahns can learn to cook and eat more nutritiously.
7 months ago
Amanda Lambert started planning early in her career for retirement and has found it’s really payi...
Heather Simonsen, KSL TV

Women trail men in retirement savings, experts say

As more women break barriers in the workplace, there is still one area they fall far behind: saving for retirement. An expert explains how to bridge the gap.
9 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Brain health: When memory issues should become cause for concern