Those "senior moments" when you temporarily can't remember a name or where you put your car keys are annoying but usually not serious. It's when you lose awareness that you are even having memory problems that may be an indication something is very wrong.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Older adults who develop Alzheimer's or other dementias stop realizing they are having memory problems several years before they are diagnosed with the disease. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago analyzed 2,092 study participants with an average age of 76 over 10 years. In the course of the study, 239 people were diagnosed with dementia. Their memory awareness was stable until 2.6 years before the onset of dementia symptoms.

Researchers said their study underscores the importance of family members being alert to cognitive changes from their older loved ones, who may not be able "to give reliable reports about the history of their own memory and thinking abilities."