Early Diagnosis of Dementia
You stopped by the parent’s house the other day, and in going through mom’s checkbook you noticed a few large checks written to various charities: the local zoo, the church’s fundraiser for their new building, something to do with local police refrigerator magnets… When you confront her about it she says: “well they were so nice and they needed the money.” But now you’re stressing out because mom doesn’t have that kind of money to give away, and you’re wondering if her mind is starting to slip.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are skyrocketing in the US. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 10,000 people are turning 65 every day in our country. And the percentage of people being diagnosed with some form of dementia is epidemic.
Additionally, Alzheimer’s disease is the only cause of death in seniors that is still increasing, and the increase is dramatic.
Many people commonly believe that memory loss is a normal part of aging: “old timer’s disease”, but this is a myth. Dementia is not inevitable when we get older.Another misconception is that Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same thing, also not true. Alzheimer’s is a disease and dementia is a symptom that can be caused by quite a few diseases or conditions. The important thing is to diagnose any signs of dementia early, and get treatment which can resolve, or at least delay the progression of further symptoms.
One of our dementia care clients first noticed that her dad wasn’t taking his medications regularly. He always told her he had done it, but when she checked she could tell the meds hadn’t been touched. Another client told us the first sign was her mom calling every day just complaining about “not being right, something’s wrong.” She was noticeably worried more and more about things being disorganized around the house. “I just can’t handle all this anymore” she would say over and over. Some have noticed their parents walk or gait has changed, and their balance has become a problem. If mom or dad is getting more moody, cranky, or just plain obstinate that also could be a warning sign.
Of course, memory issues is the most common and obvious symptom. But that is not necessarily a sign of someone needing dementia care. Simpler problems like a urinary tract infection, dehydration, and low sodium levels can cause temporary memory impairment. But if you suspect a more serious problem, early diagnosis has quite a few benefits:
- Increased probability of benefiting from treatment
- More time to make future plans
- More time to find out about and participate in clinical trials of treatments
- Less worry and stress about the unknown causes of symptoms
- Better participation from patients in their own plan of care
You can download our “Mini Mental” test and go over it with your folks. This simple test takes only about 10 minutes to complete and can give you the early warning you need. If the results indicate some mental degree of diminished brain function with mom or dad, you need to have them evaluated by a healthcare professional. The Alzheimer’s association can help you find those professionals in your area.
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