We were recently asked by the Publisher of Peak NV magazine, part of the Sierra Nevada Media Group, to write an article on Alzheimer’s disease. The following is what was written by our owner, Gina Stutchman.
It’s safe to say that our memory changes as we age. We all have likely had that moment when we forgot someone’s name or a particular word, but when memory loss begins to disrupt our daily life, that “may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or another dementia,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It may be helpful to understand two terms, Alzheimer’s and dementia, as they’re often used interchangeably. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a various of types of organic brain problems and is defined as a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s as it accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is defined as a disorder that results in the loss of brain cells and function.
Other types of dementia include Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Frontotemporal dementia and a number of others, as well as some forms of reversible dementia, such as vitamin deficiencies, infections and thyroid problems.
When should you be concerned that memory loss may be more serious than typical age related changes? Here’s a list of what can be defined as typical and what could be a cause for concern.
- Forgetting names, appointments, or where you put your keys are typical. These things happen to everyone, though they can become more prevalent with age. However, it’s not typical if you forgot you ever made the appointment or if you need to rely on friends and family members for information that you used to handle on your own.
- Things like occasionally making an error when balancing a checkbook or putting an appointment down on the wrong date in the calendar are rather common. But no longer being able to balance a checkbook or count change is not considered typical if you were able to do those tasks before.
- It’s normal to drive past the freeway exit you had intended to take as you let your mind drift, but it could be a cause for concern if you find yourself lost while driving to a familiar location like the grocery store or back home.
- Is it Monday or Tuesday? That’s a simple question you may ask yourself, especially if you don’t currently work. However, being unable to recall the order of the days in a week or the months in a year is not typical.
- Had a word on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t think of it? That’s fairly common and happens to most, if not all, of us, and the word will likely come to you a few hours later. Individuals with dementia find themselves unable to find the words for common items and could create words such as “hand clock” when they are searching for the word “watch.”
Other symptoms that should not be ignored include poor judgment or decision making, such as giving money to telephone solicitors, difficulty having conversations or misplacing things and never being able to retrace the steps to find them.
Should you notice memory changes that do not appear to be typical in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Call your doctor. Early detection of Alzheimer’s can provide maximum benefit from available treatments that may reduce some symptoms, the ability to maintain a sense of independence longer, and participation in decisions about your future.
-Gina Stutchman is the Owner of Arbors Memory Care Community, along with her husband, Jason. Arbors Memory Care Community is located in Sparks, Nevada. Gina and her family have been caring for seniors in Northern Nevada for over 40 years.