Why Am I so Forgetful and Absent Minded? Client Case StudyFeb 13, 2023
Why am I so forgetful and absent minded?
This is the question I got from *Jane (name changed for privacy) one Sunday afternoon.
As a memory health coach, this is familiar territory for me. In fact, I hear this question at least once a week – which is why I’m sharing this case study.
Because if you’re here, you’ve likely been asking yourself some version of this same question.
As for Jane, she was asking herself this very question every day for five years before reaching out for help.
That’s a long time.
To save you from doing the same, I’m sharing her story, with her permission of course. You’ll be able to see her exact roadmap – from struggling to focus and remember important information, to becoming memory confident again.
Let’s dive in.
Absent Minded or Alzheimer's Disease?
Meet Jane: Jane is a 48-year-old woman, mother, and wife. She works in corporate America and describes herself as scatterbrained. Somewhere around age 40, Jane felt like she was becoming increasingly distracted in her everyday life.
As a busy mom of two boys with ever-changing sports schedules, she didn’t think too much of it. Nothing a little self-care and to-do lists can't fix, right?
Time went on, life kept moving. But Jane didn’t feel like she was able to keep up with new things as easily – no matter how many ‘breaks’ she took. Her lack of focus and poor memory was making everything harder. From constantly losing her car keys and cell phone to forgetting details of daily life.
Jane had difficulty concentrating, remembering names, dates, and other important things. She was also struggling to find the words she wanted to say, which was really taking a toll on her confidence at work. After a while, her forgetfulness triggered a lot of feelings – from self-doubt to frustration.
Jane became worried that her foggy thinking and short-term memory loss were a sign of a more serious issue - early signs of dementia.
She let this fear sink in deeper and deeper, keeping it to herself or jokingly making comments to her husband and close friends until finally, she scheduled an appointment with her primary care physician.
Normal Forgetfulness or Mild Cognitive Impairment? Visting the Doctor
Jane has a great relationship with her doctor.
This is worth mentioning because for so many women, especially in their 40s-60s, invisible concerns like hormone imbalances, memory issues, and distractedness are written off or dismissed as “getting older.”
Jane’s doctor listened to her. She did a physical and ran a simple blood test, asked if she was getting enough sleep, and assessed for signs of perimenopause (another underlying cause of focus and memory problems in your 40s). All was normal (whew). She ruled out other health conditions like underactive thyroid, vitamin B-12 deficiency and symptoms of dementia, then referred her to the psychologist for further evaluation.
Ok – let’s stop here again. I could hug this doctor! This is best practice. If you mention concerns about brain fog, mental health issues, memory problems, etc. that are unexplained by your primary care physician, they should always refer you other medical professionals who can help.
Typically, that referral will either be for further hormone assessment, to a neurologist, a psychologist, or all of the above.
In Jane’s case, her concerns were primarily with attention and memory. Otherwise, she was in good health, so she scheduled her appointment and waited.
It’s not uncommon to wait 3-6 months for this type of appointment in the US. I can’t speak to other countries, though I did chat with a woman in Australia once who said it took her 8 months on a waitlist to be seen by a psychologist.
Here’s where I like to intervene and remind you that you do not need to wait to be seen by another professional before starting to work on your memory problems. You should absolutely be seen, and you can 1000% be working on your focus and memory until then.
The sooner the better.
Seeing the Psychologist
Jane was anxious about her appointment. Even with a clean bill of physical health she still harbored deep-rooted fears of dementia. Perhaps because of her family history.
Jane unloaded to the psychologist, sharing her concerns and chronic stress, and stating that she was overwhelmed by the amount of information she needed to remember and the number of tasks she needed to complete, sometimes causing her to shy away from starting any of them at all - then feeling the pressure rise when her procrastination came back to bite her.
She talked about her lack of attention, her tendency to forget things, and the lack of sleep lately. She described her performance at work slipping and feeling like her friendships were fading because she couldn’t remember things people had told her.
She revealed that in some ways, she has always been easily distractable and has to work hard to stay focused - a task that was worsening for her after age 40. She divulged her family members history of dementia.
Then the psychologist then said words she hadn’t considered before, “Jane, it sounds like you may have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.)”
Assessing for ADHD
Isn’t ADHD for kids!?
It sounded odd to her, but she was open to exploring the different causes that could explain how she was feeling.
Sure enough, after diving deeper into her history and current complaints, and assessing her anxiety, distractedness, and executive functioning skills – Jane was diagnosed with ADHD.
Why is it harder to diagnose females with ADHD?
To clear things up here, ADHD is not a kids-only condition.
In fact, children with ADHD (like my own daughter) will grow up to be adults with ADHD. The benefit to being diagnosed earlier in life, of course, is getting more support to manage how it shows up for you.
Many women with ADHD, like Jane, present with inattentive-type ADHD. Meaning it’s not characterized by hyper-active outward behaviors, but rather, by symptoms such as:
- A racing mind.
- Difficulty focusing on tasks, easily distracted.
- Symptoms of forgetfulness.
- Long-term memory problems.
- Difficulty with initiating complex tasks or staying on track to complete them.
These less obvious symptoms make it harder to recognize early in life. It’s also the reason that many girls and women go undiagnosed. This is a problem because left unaddressed these issues can also manifest into behaviors like masking your challenges from others, perfectionism, and constant self-doubt.
After coming to terms with her diagnosis, Jane did some research and finally felt so seen. In her own words, “so much about my entire life up until now makes more sense now that I know I have ADHD.”
But now what?
Moving Forward with ADHD
In every way possible, Jane’s ADHD diagnosis made her feel validated. She looked up all the signs and symptoms and they totally aligned.
She no longer had to fear that she had early onset dementia, although she admittedly still did sometimes.
The psychologist offered medications, though Jane declined, at least for now. So, she was left with some vague recommendations for lifestyle modifications.
The Next Five Years
Time went by and even with the label of ADHD, Jane struggled with her focus and forgetfulness. Shouldn’t I feel more focused now that I know?
She worked with a therapist, which was helpful for talking out her feelings about the situation, but it didn't help her with her focus or memory.
For five years, Jane tried new planners and reminder apps. She listened to podcasts about other women with ADHD and heard about what they did. But to no avail, none of the little tips and tricks seemed to work for her, at least not consistently.
She was beginning to feel really down about her forgetfulness and focus issues, even with the support of friends, family and a therapist. Nothing was helping.
Seeking More Support
Then one day mindlessly scrolling on social media, Jane stumbled upon my info on Instagram (@FrancineWaskavitz). She told me then that her first thought was, “omg I had no idea memory health coaches exist!”
Good thing I can fill that void!
Jane was quick to fill out an application and schedule a free consultation call with me.
On the call, she relayed her story. She was seen and heard. Validated and diagnosed. But it didn’t help her overcome any of the issues that landed her there in the first place.
Jane didn’t know it but in her own words she had described why I do what I do.
Because your doctor, psychologist, therapist, etc. may know how to appropriately diagnose you if they listen to you first, but they can’t continue to support you in the way you need afterward.
You need guidance on what to change and how, accountability and support to get it done, and someone who totally gets it cheering you on along the way. That’s what I get to do as a memory health coach.
It’s basically like having a personal trainer, but for your focus and memory. It’s guided support in the areas you’re struggling, with and tailored recommendations for how to overcome it.
And Jane was ready.
She listened to the program details and signed up for memory health coaching.
How to Be Less Absent-Minded
It didn’t take long for Jane to start seeing changes in her memory – even after so many years of struggling.
All of my 1-on-1 clients get an easy-to-follow framework for how to support focus and recall, which was exactly what she needed to start making progress.
We got specific on where Jane was struggling and created highly effective strategies to restore focus where she needed it. Once she felt more focused (and less absent-minded), we plugged in simple and powerful memory strategies to support her recall.
Now, I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty details here, as it’s personalized for each person. But it’s important to know that simple lifestyle changes and the right support can make a huge difference.
Jane’s progress continued as we moved into the next phase of the program: fueling clear thinking. It was here that we discussed her lifestyle habits for movement and nutrition, sleep, and stress. This is commonly overlooked by physicians – and it makes all the difference in feeling less overwhelmed and more focused.
Lifestyle medicine is also how you prevent any future memory problems – which is key for many midlife women like Jane, especially with a family history (and a big fear) of dementia.
Commonly overlooked factors that impact your focus and memory:
- Your external environment
- Routines (both rigid routines or lack thereof)
After two months of guided support and accountability adjusting for all of these factors within The Memory Confidence™ framework, Jane wasn’t struggling with her recall anymore. Focusing became easier and she wasn’t spending as much time berating herself for feeling out of touch.
This is huge! Two months into the program we were succeeding after five years of waiting and wondering.
Our final phase of the program was building sustainable change with simple daily habits so that Jane wouldn’t slip backward. The Memory Confidence Map™ makes this easy to self-monitor, so Jane felt comfortable and confident moving forward.
It’s been several months since we’ve worked together, and Jane has continued to feel more focused and memory confident again.
That’s what I call a success story.
Now when I check in with Jane, she says, “I only wish I had started sooner.”
A Moment of Thanks
I’m grateful to Jane for allowing me to share her story with you.
Maybe you’ve experienced similar symptoms. Maybe you haven’t gotten the same physician support as Jane did.
Or perhaps you still have no real answers for why you’re feeling so forgetful and absent minded (that’s why you’re here googling it after all.)
Either way, know this: change is possible, support is out there, and you’re not the only one feeling this way.
Are you asking yourself 'Why am I so Forgetful and Absent Minded' too?
Don't let five years pass by concerned about your memory without taking action to change it.
As a memory health coach, I help women just like you go from forgetful to focused so you can speak up and feel confident again … without all the self-doubt and second-guessing that landed you here.
I’d love to learn more about you and share with you how I can help. Schedule your free memory health coaching consultation to learn more.