Is it dementia? Watch out for these warning signs.

Carla and Jerry were excited about the wedding of the eldest daughter, Alaina.  Alaina had grown up learning from Carla how to sew and was unhesitating when she got engaged, Mom would sew her wedding dress.  They would work on it together.  It would be perfect.

As they began to plan and look at dresses and patterns, Carla seemed uncharacteristically distracted.  It frustrated Alaina that her mom seemed unwilling to engage.  She forgot their appointments at the dress shops. She wouldn’t commit to what type of fabric would be best.  She seemed not to care about what patterns she might be able to work with.  Jerry noticed changes in Carla at home too.  She often lost track of time while she was reading and seemed more withdrawn and quiet.  What should have been a happy time for he and Carla, seemed to have brought her into some sort of depression.  Eventually, Jerry insisted they see the Dr. and after extensive testing, the Dr. sat Jerry and Carla down.  She was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a disease which affects the memory, language, and executive function of it’s victims.  The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are some 6 and half million individuals living with dementia in the US.  While the story above illustrates that dementia is not exclusively a disease which affects the elderly, about 1 in 9 individuals over age 65 will develop dementia.

Although there is no cure currently, there are two new treatments which help remove beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain, and one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease.  This decrease in beta-amyloid has improved the quality of life and functioning of individuals living with dementia.  Because there are treatments, the early detection of the disease has become even more important. Here are a few of the early warning signs which should alert you to pursue testing and treatment.

  • Memory loss that interrupts daily living. It’s normal to forget things from time to time but if you are increasingly dependent on memory aides or if friends or family have told you that you’re repeating questions, it may be time to get tested.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks. New learning or unfamiliar tasks may become more difficult for anyone getting older but if you are forgetting the steps in completing a familiar task, it may be time to get tested.
  • Trouble finding the right words or remembering names.  Many of us struggle with remembering names and always have but if you are struggling to recall the name of familiar items or people and you cannot recall them, it may be time to get tested.
  • Poor judgment or decision making. Forgetting to put the trash out by the street is an example of normal aging.  Not caring about personal hygiene or neglecting to pay bills may be a sign of something more serious, and you should consider getting tested.
  • Withdrawal. As we age, other factors like poor hearing or just tiredness might make us less inclined to spend time with others but if you or your loved one seem to be withdrawing because it’s hard to follow the conversation or because it’s hard to track of a favorite game or pastime, it’s possible that it’s something more serious and you should consider getting tested.

The Alzhiermer’s Association lists 5 additional warning signs and you can read more here.

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