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Feature Articles - Aging


Does Getting Older Mean Alzheimer's Disease?

Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, Cape Girardeau County and Southeast Region, University of Missouri Extension

 

After shopping many of us have left the store and could not find our keys or our car. Does that mean you could have Alzheimer's? The answer is, "no" but if, you forgot that you drove the car or if you get lost going home, then you may have to be concerned. There are a number of treatable conditions that can cause poor memory. These include thyroid gland disorders, side effects of medications, depression, head injury, stroke, or a brain tumor. Usually the doctor can rule out dementia and treat the reversible causes of memory loss.


Approximately four million Americans have Alzheimer's, a progressive, degenerative disease and the most common form of dementia. That number reflects 19% of people in the age group of 75-85. So on the positive side, 81% of this age group will not be affected. Dr. Bruce Yanker of the Harvard Medical School revealed, "that we've learned more about Alzheimer's disease in the past 15 years than in the previous 85." However, there is still no foolproof way to diagnose the disease. To help family members to recognize the early warning signs, the Alzheimer's Association has developed a useful checklist of common symptoms of the disease.


10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's:

 

  1. Recent memory loss that affect job skills. It is normal to forget a name or a number but those with Alzheimer's forget such things often and do not remember them later.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. A meal is cooked and forgotten.
  3. Problems with language. Forgetting simple words or using the wrong term that gives the sentence no meaning.
  4. Disorientation as to time and place. Becoming lost on their way home or not knowing how they got to a place.
  5. Poor or decreased judgment. A common example is dressing inappropriately.
  6. Problems with abstract thinking. Numbers may have no meaning and balancing the checkbook would be impossible.
  7. Misplacing things. A person with Alzheimer's may put things in inappropriate places, like the eyeglasses in the freezer or their rings in the flour canister.
  8. Changes in mood or behavior. Everyone becomes moody but with Alzheimer's the mood swings are very rapid from calm to tears, for no reason.
  9. Changes in personality. The change can be drastic and the person is confused and suspicious.
  10. Loss of initiative. The person does not want to do normal activities.

 


Resources:

 

Work & Family Life, Early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, March 2001. Vol. 15, No. 3. p. 4. 

 

 

Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009

 

 

 


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