“Where are my keys?” “Has anyone seen my glasses?” As we age, many of us can be heard muttering these questions. The question that many of us wonder, but no out loud, is “Is it Alzheimer’s?” Lapses in memory or difficulty concentrating and remaining focused may lead an individual to ask, “Is this normal or do I have Alzheimer’s disease?”
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that is a progressive and degenerative; it affects memory, thinking and behavior; it is not a normal part of aging. The ability to remember recently learned information, important dates and events, while relying on others to fill in the blanks, can be very disruptive for those with Alzheimer’s disease. For those who are aging normally, forgetfulness, at times, can seem the norm rather than the exception. The difference between forgetfulness or absent mindedness and Alzheimer’s disease is that the absent minded individual has the ability to retrace his or her steps, to recount the activities of the day to find the keys. This would be difficult, if not impossible for the individual with Alzheimer’s disease. Losing items, in and of itself, is not the only warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Difficulty concentrating and reaming focused is also a sign. For example, an individual may have difficulty finding words during a conversation; this is normal. For the person with Alzheimer’s disease, they may have trouble participating in the conversation. They may interject phrases or words that have no relevance to the conversation. On the other hand, a person once socially active may withdraw from conversation; this too can be a warning sign. There are many warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease; if you suspect that you or someone you love has Alzheimer’s it is best to see a doctor. There are a number of medical reasons that a person can act confused and forgetful. Medications, dehydration, urinary tract infections can all lead to confusion. Usually a doctor will eliminate medical conditions first and then assign a diagnosis of dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. It is important to see a doctor right away so that medications and treatment can be prescribed for those cases where medical conditions cause confusion. When it is Alzheimer’s disease beginning treatment right away can alleviate or relieve symptoms and help the individual live independently longer.
Tip: It is easier for caregivers to live in the confused person’s world than the other way around. If an 80 year old with Alzheimer’s says that she is looking for her mother, it is better to say “Yes, she will be here soon” and redirect than to say, “remember, you mother died many years ago?” This will lead to distress and more confusion for someone who is already confused.