It’s Sunday morning, and Margaret has just walked into her kitchen for the third time. Again, she wonders, “For what?” She looks around the room, perplexed. She has no clue.
She takes a chair at the small table closest to her. For a while, she sits staring.
Margaret is worried.
She seems to be having more of these “senior moments” lately. How often has she misplaced her keys and cell phone in the last month or so? She has such difficulty remembering names of people to whom she’s had a proper introduction. These are recent changes in her behaviour that are happening more frequently. She worries that these could be signs of something more serious than simply “getting older.” In fact, sitting there, in her kitchen she feels almost paralysed by fear that she could be exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Are you experiencing changes in thinking or behaviour?
Perhaps you have noticed more lapses in your memory. There are many reasons for changes in memory and thinking. Not all of them are serious. However, significant changes in your ability to remember or process thoughts, at any age, is a reason for concern. You should plan a visit to your doctor right away if you are experiencing these types of concerns.
The Alzheimer’s Association has published and informative guide that lists these Ten signs of Alzheimer’s.
1. Memory loss that affects daily life
- Forgetting recently learned information
- Increasing reliance on memory aids
- Asking the same questions again and again
2. Difficulties with planning or problem-solving
- Problems with following a familiar recipe
- Making errors in balancing cheque book
3. Inability or problems completing tasks
- Stopping in the middle of an ordinary activity
- Failure to remember the rules of a favourite game
- Increased reliance on family, friends or co-workers to help you finish tasks
4. Confused regarding time and place
- Surprised by the passage of time
- Progressively unable to recall dates, times, days of the week or seasons
- Momentary confusion about where you are or perhaps, how you got there
5. Visual problems or difficulties with perception
- Difficulty judging distance
- Inability to distinguish colours and contrast
- Progressively unable to recognise your reflection
6. Recent problems with communication, words or talking
- Increasing inability to understand or join in conversations, or stopping mid-sentence unable to continue
- Struggling with vocabulary
- Failure to find the right word for something
7. Misplacing or losing track of things
- Inability to retrace steps
- Losing something, then finding it in an unusual place
- Accusing others of taking your things or moving your things
8. Increasingly poor judgement
- Making inappropriate financial decisions, giving or losing significant amounts of money
- Paying less attention to grooming and self-care
9. Withdrawal from society
- Stopping activities of enjoyment such as group outings and hobbies
10. Behavioural changes
- May become suspicious, fearful, anxious or depressed
- Withdrawal from normal social outings with friends
It is Time Visit your Doctor
There is no single test that can diagnose dementia or Alzheimer’s, so seeing your doctor early in the process, can help monitor changes over time and if indicated seek an early diagnosis. At your visit, your doctor will give you a physical and neurological exam and will consider all other underlying conditions or potential causes for changes to your memory. Here are a few tips to prepare for your visit to the doctor:
- Make a list. Include all your symptoms and concerns.
- Talk openly and honestly.
- List of the medications that you are currently taking
- Or bring all your prescription bottles in a bag
- Include all over-the-counter meds, supplements, and vitamins
Only a General Practitioner or specialist such as a Geriatrician or Neurologist can accurately diagnose dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. If you are experiencing the symptoms discussed above, it is time to see your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to ensure that you will be able to decide and implement the best treatment options for your future.