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FINDING OUT IF IT’S ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE


Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not part of the normal aging process. It is a symptom of dementia, a gradual and progressive decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder that results in the loss of brain cells.

TEN WARNING SIGNS:
1. Memory loss that affects job skills. It’s normal to forget people’s names from time to time, but frequent forgetfulness is cause for concern.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. Anyone can leave a button unbuttoned, but when someone becomes persistently challenged by buttons or other tasks of daily living most people take for granted, that’s cause for concern.

3. Language problems. From time to time, anyone can have difficulty finding the right word. But when simple words present problems, or when sentences become incomprehensible, that might signal Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Time and place disorientation. It’s normal to forget the date or a destination. People with Alzheimer’s often feel lost standing across the street from their own homes.

5. Loss of judgment. Anyone can fail to notice that an item of clothing is stained, but when someone dresses completely inappropriately -- wearing several shirts or mistaking underwear for a hat -- that’s cause for concern.

6. Problems with abstract thinking. Anyone can struggle over balancing a checkbook. People with Alzheimer’s forget what numbers are for and how to use them.

7. Misplacing things. Anyone can misplace a wallet or keys, but when someone puts a wallet in the refrigerator or keys in the sink, that’s cause for concern.

8. Changes in mood or behavior. Changing moods are a fact of life, but people with Alzheimer’s disease often exhibit rapid mood changes -- from calm to tears to rage -- for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in personality. People often become more ‘crotchety’ as they become elderly, but Alzheimer’s disease often makes people paranoid, very confuse and/or fearful.

10. Loss of initiative. It’s normal to get bored with daily activities, but when people lose much of their get-up-and-go, that’s cause for concern.

Memory loss and changes in mood and behavior are some signs that you or a family member may have Alzheimer’s disease. If you have notices these signs, it is important to receive a diagnosis. Other health problems can also cause dementia or a decline in intellectual ability severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily routine, such as: Stroke Head injury Poor nutrition Drug reactions Metabolic changes Depression Parkinson’s disease Huntington’s disease Pick’s disease Lewy’s body disease Brain tumors Hypothyroidism Vitamin B-12 deficiency Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is important to identify the actual cause in order for the individual to receive the proper care.

The individual who may have Alzheimer’s disease may be able to maximize the quality of his or her life by receiving an early diagnosis. It may also resolve the anxiety of wondering “What is wrong with me?” An early diagnosis allows more time to plan for the future. Decisions regarding care, living arrangements, financial and legal issues and other important issues can be addressed. Alzheimer’s disease is known to strike persons in their 40s and 50s. This rarer “early onset” form of Alzheimer’s disease presents unique planning issues for the individual and family.

There is no one diagnostic test that can detect if a person has Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis is made by reviewing a detailed history of the person and the results of several tests, including a complete physical and neurological examination, a psychiatric assessment and laboratory tests. Once these tests are completed, a diagnosis of “probable” Alzheimer’s disease can be made by process of elimination. However, physicians can be 80 to 90 percent certain their diagnosis is accurate. The process may be handled by a family physician or may involve a diagnostic team of medical professionals, including the primary physician, neurologist (a physician specializing in the nervous system), psychiatrist, psychologist and nurses.

Utah is fortunate enough to have the Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Imaging and Research where neurologists and neuropsychologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. They can be reached at: (801) 585-6387 for an appointment. A referral from your primary care physician will be needed

Comments

  1. Terrell on March 10, 2014 at 7:32 PM said:
    This is very helpful
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