There’s forgetfulness and then there’s forgetfulness. I’ve called my nieces and nephews every name but their own for years, and when I try to repeat a sidesplitting story I overheard mere minutes before, I inevitably get lost somewhere between the setup and the punch line.

Poor memory — or more accurately, high anxiety over poor memory — may be the most common affliction we baby boomers face as we careen into old age. We obsess over every perceived sign of dementia or, God forbid, Alzheimer’s disease. On more than one occasion, I’ve sat in my living room watching Jeff Daniels in “The Newsroom” and wondered if, in fact, I am sitting in my living room watching Jeff Daniels in “The Newsroom” or rocking back and forth on the porch of a nursing home imagining I’m watching Jeff Daniels in something called “The Newsroom.” And who the heck is Jeff Daniels, anyhow?

It’s occurred to me that obsessing over the possibility of dementia may very well be worse than having it.

The fact is, America is aging. Not only is the huge cohort of boomers getting older, medical advances are extending lifespans, allowing lots of us to live into so-called “old-old age” with chronic conditions that might have killed our grandparents. Cognitive issues, serious or not-so-serious, will be a reality for many of us, and the health care system must brace itself for that.

As one useful tool, The Ohio State University and OSU Wexner Medical Center have come up with a test to help people evaluate their thinking abilities and help their physicians know how well their patients’ brains are working. The test is called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam — SAGE — and it’s designed to detect early signs of cognitive, memory or thinking impairments.

As an OSU release says, and as I can well attest, “it is normal to experience some memory loss and to take longer to recall events as you age.” However, “there are many treatable causes of cognitive and thinking loss, and, in some cases, medications or other treatments can be very effective — especially if provided when symptoms first begin.”

After completing the test, a person will not receive an answer sheet because there are multiple correct answers. Rather, the person can take the results to his or her primary care physician, who will interpret them and decide if more tests are needed or keep them on file as a baseline for the future.

The four-page test is free, usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete, and the only tools needed are a pencil and paper.

This is also another sign of how individuals are getting more involved in their own care, to the benefit of our health care system.

Individuals and health care professionals can download the test here.