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Is it Alzheimer's?

by Lori R. Somekh on Aug. 16, 2017

 General Practice 

Summary: With all the statistics and information out there about the high incidence and cost of Alzheimer's Disease (in this blog even), we all have plenty of anxiety when we find ourselves being a little forgetful or losing things or seeing a little functional decline in ourselves or our loved ones.

With all the statistics and information out there about the high incidence and cost of Alzheimer's Disease (in this blog even), we all have plenty of anxiety when we find ourselves being a little forgetful or losing things or seeing a little functional decline in ourselves or our loved ones.  This is, of course, because a certain amount of mental decline does occur with age.  When, then, do we need to be concerned?

The Alzheimer's Association has articulated ten warning signs of Alzheimer's Disease.  Now just because you notice one of these symptoms does not mean you should panic.  We all have some degree of some of these symptoms at times, and it may be perfectly normal for an aging brain.  The Association recommends that if you do notice any of these symptoms in yourself or your loved one, you see a doctor and get them checked.

Alzheimer's Association's 10 Symptoms:

1.  Memory loss that disrupts daily life.  One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information.  Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or asking family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's a typical age-related change?  Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later

2.  Challenges in planning or solving problems.  Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.  They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.  They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's a typical age-related change?  Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook

3.  Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.  People with Alzheimer's often 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.

What's a typical age-related change?  Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show

4.  Confusion with time or place.  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.

What's a typical age-related change?  Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later

5.  Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.  For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's.  They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast.  In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room.  They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

What's a typical age-related change?  Vision changes related to cataracts

6.  New problems with words in speaking or writing.  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").

What's a typical age-related change?  Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7.  Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.  A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places.  They may 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.

What's a typical age-related change?  Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.   

8.  Decreased or poor judgment.  People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making.  For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers.  They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's a typical age-related change?  Making a bad decision once in a while

9.  Withdrawal from work or social activities.  A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.  They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby.  They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's a typical age-related change?  Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations

10.  Changes in mood and personality.  The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change.  They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.  They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What's a typical age-related change?  Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp

There are some important reasons why it is critical to get diagnosed early. One reason is that the scientific community is coming up with new, cutting-edge prevention and treatment information all the time. As with any disease, catching it early increases the chance of halting or slowing its progression.

Another reason is that you still have time to do some important legal planning that you may not be able to do once the disease has progressed. Some matters you would want to attend to as soon as possible are executing a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy, so that a person of your choice can handle your affairs for you if you become unable to handle them on your own. You may also have an opportunity to take advantage of estate planning or Medicaid planning strategies that will allow you to have control over how your assets are handled if you should need long-term care in the future.

As with many things in life, a lot of problems can be avoided by planning ahead.

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