A: Forgetting your keys or what you were supposed to get at the store can be unsettling, and it is a common reaction to question whether these slips in memory mean that you are developing this much-feared disease.
Although Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia among older people, there are many factors that can affect memory function. Certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, anxiety, depression and sleep apnea may cause difficulty in concentrating, forgetfulness, and tiredness. Some people with medical problems may have a condition called amnestic mild cognitive impairment. These people have more memory problems than normal for people their age, but the symptoms are not as severe as those for Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's should not be confused with dementia, which people sometimes use interchangeably. Dementia refers to a group of symptoms that are indicators that there is something wrong with the brain. These symptoms include memory difficulty, as well as problems with cognitive and social functioning. However, dementia is not a disease and does not define the cause of the problem.
Usually, Alzheimer's occurs after the age of 60 and begins slowly. When Alzheimer's begins in middle age, diagnosis can be more challenging. Early onset Alzheimer's is an uncommon form that strikes people younger than age 65. Only about 5 percent develop symptoms before age 65.
Some of the behavioral signs of Alzheimer's are the following:
Asking the same question over and over again
Repeating the same story, word for word, again and again
Forgetting how to cook, make repairs, or how to play cards.
Losing one's ability to pay bills or balance the checkbook.
Getting lost in familiar surroundings
Neglecting to bathe, or wearing the same clothes over and over, while the person insists that he has taken a bath or that his clothes are still clean.
Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions the person would have previously handled.
For now, only an autopsy after death can definitively prove the presence of Alzheimer's. The difference between forgetfulness caused by other factors and early signs of Alzheimer's may be a matter of degree and intensity. For instance, typical age-related changes might be sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later or sometimes having trouble finding the right word but still being able to follow or join in a conversation.
For a definitive diagnosis, consult your doctor.
Source for signs of Alzheimer's: National Institute on Aging: Reprinted with permission of the Suncoast Gerontology Center, University of South Florida
Dale Elena Eccellente is a licensed professional counselor, chaplain, and caregiver.
She is a volunteer with the Grillo Health Information Center, which offers free and confidential research to help improve health decisions. Contact the Grillo Center located at 4715 Arapahoe Avenue, by phone 720-864-7293 or via GrilloCenter.org.
No research or assistance should be interpreted as medical advice.
Where To Find Itwww.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asphttp://mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/forgetfulness-knowing-when-ask-helphttp://alzheimersreadingroom.com/