“It took my mother having a stress-related heart attack before we quit dismissing my father’s progressing dementia to ‘senior moments’ and got him a proper diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Had we paid attention to the warning signs of this disease, a lot of prevention could have been in place.” — Brent

Know the 10 Signs of Alzheimer'sThere seems to be a blurred line between “getting old” and early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.   When does forgetting a word more often become a “problem” or a warning sign of more profound changes?  At the Alzheimer’s Association, we have a list of “10 Warning Signs” that we use as a guide to see if a visit to a physician may be needed (for more information, visit http://alz.org/alzheimers_disease_know_the_10_signs.asp).

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

When I talk to people about these warning signs, many of them say “Oh! I have all of these… does that mean I have dementia??” Not to worry, yet!  These warning signs are just a hint that it may be time to go visit a doctor and talk about the symptoms you are facing.  A lot of people don’t realize that there are reversible types of dementia, such as thyroid issues, that may cause some of these symptoms.  Going to talk to a doctor can determine the cause of these symptoms and some may actually be reversed.

A lot of these “warning signs” seem like typical age related changes.  However, there is a difference between forgetting where you parked your car and finding it a few seconds later (typical aging) and not remember what car you have (a warning sign of dementia).  Another example is confusion with time or place, again, there is a difference between thinking it is Friday when it is actually Thursday (we’ve all done that!) but remember it is Thursday a few minutes later, versus  thinking it is Summer when it is actually Winter (warning sign).

Where do you think we draw the line between “normal” aging and the beginning signs of dementia?  Even though we have these outlined signs, it may be difficult to tell.  When it doubt, I say talk to your doctor about changes so they can be recorded and monitored in the future.

Reference: www.alz.org/texas

Our Guest Blogger this week is Krista Dunn, MPH, Galveston/Bay Area Outreach Coordinator for Alzheimer’s Association Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter.

Join us for a real-time discussion about the questions raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.