You visited your parents recently and your mom’s behavior worried you. She didn’t seem her usual self ? she was forgetful, repeating herself in conversation and over the weekend she seemed to misplace more items than is usual. You want to just put it down to ?old age,? but maybe there is more to it than that. So, when do you know if your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease as opposed to being merely forgetful? What IS Alzheimer’s disease? Can it be treated? How can you help?
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is aÂ progressive andÂ fatal brain disease and it is the most common form of dementia. Over 5.3 million people in the US suffer from Alzheimer’s and it affects the lives of another 10.9 million people who are the unpaid care-givers supporting and caring for Alzheimer’s victims. In an age when people are living longer, it is also the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.
So how do you know if your loved one has developed Alzheimer’s?
The Five Warning Signs
1.Â Memory changes that disrupt daily life. One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. They may also start forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; and relying on memory aides or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
2.Â Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.Â A person with Alzheimer’s disease
may put things in unusual places and/or lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
3.Â New problems with words in speaking or writing.Â People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble
following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
4.Â Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.People with Alzheimer’s
can find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
5.Â Confusion with time or place.Â People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
Other signs to look for are trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from work or social activities, changes in mood and personality, and challenges in planning or solving problems.
What can you do to help?
Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but the good news is thatÂ treatments for symptoms, combined with the right services and support, can make life better for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
So the best thing you can do to help someone you believe is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is to get that person to a doctor for testing as soon as possible. Early detection means that the sufferer can get the maximum benefit from available treatments, gives them more time to plan for the future and gets them help from care and support services.
For more information on the warning signs to look for and other valuable information, visit the official Alzheimer’s Association website:http://www.alz.org/index.asp.
Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 orÂ contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.