Handwriting April

Dear Lyn — March 2016

Dear Lyn,

What are the signs of dementia?  My parents are getting into their 90’s now, and are slowing down.  They don’t seem as sharp as they used to be, but both are still in good physical health, I am just starting to worry about their mental state.

Thanks,

Beth G.

 


 

Dear Beth,

The Alzheimer’s Association has developed the following Ten Warning Signs:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.   One of the most common signs, especially in early stages, is forgetting recently learned information.   Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.  Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.  They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.  They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.  They often find it hard to complete daily tasks.  Sometimes, they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.
  4. Confusion with time or place.  Lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time.  They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately.  Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.  For some people, having vision problems is a sign of dementia.  They have difficulty reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Vision changes related to cataracts.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.  People with dementia may have trouble following or joining a conversation.  They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves.  They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g. calling a “watch” a “hand clock”).
    • What is typical age-related change?  Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.  The person with dementia by put things in unusual place.  They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again.  Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing.  This may occur frequently over time.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement.  People with dementia experience changes in judgement or decision making.  For example, they may use poor judgement when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers.  They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Making a bad decision once in a while.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.  A person with dementia may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects, or sports.  They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby.  They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Sometimes feeling weary of work, family, and social obligations.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.  The mood and personalities of people with dementia can change.  They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.  They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
    • What is typical age-related change?  Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs of dementia, please see a doctor to find the cause.  Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for your future.

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