SENIORS HEALTH: Early diagnosis critical for dementia patients

Changes in mood, language problems among Alzheimer society’s list of 10 warning signs.

  • Apr. 30, 2015 5:00 p.m.

The Alzheimer Society has help available for patients and their family members.

Beginning today, the Seniors Health Network each month will pose a question to a health-care professional. This month the Alzheimer society was asked:

“My husband seems to be getting increasingly forgetful and confused. He often doesn’t remember if he has had breakfast and sometimes he forgets our kids’ names. What should I do?”

Avalon Tournier from Alzheimer BC says:

I would suggest you call your doctor so a health-care professional can examine and test your husband.

There are many possible causes for his memory loss, and it is possible this is being caused by a reversible condition.

If your husband is diagnosed with any form of dementia, I suggest you call the Alzheimer Society of BC. We have a series of workshops called “The family Caregiver Series” which can help caregivers communicate better with the person with memory loss.

The Alzheimer society also offers regular caregiver support group meetings which will provide current information and a place to find support and friendship with others whose life has been affected by a memory-loss condition.

You can also call our local office at 604-541-0606 and request a one-to-one appointment with a team member, pick up information or receive detailed information about our caregiver support groups.

Fraser Health also suggests:

• If you have concerns about someone experiencing forgetfulness and confusion, review the Alzheimer Society’s website (www.alzheimer.ca/en/bc) or call 1-800-936-6033.

• Discuss these concerns with your doctor.

• Early diagnosis is important. There are several treatable conditions that have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Early diagnosis is also key to get connected with resources and services.

To help you know what to look for, the Alzheimer Society has developed the following list of 10 warning signs:

1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day function

It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments, colleagues’ names or a friend’s phone number and remember them later. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget things more often and not remember them later, especially things that have happened more recently.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal.

3. Problems with language

Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease may forget simple words or substitute words, making her sentences difficult to understand.

4. Disorientation of time and place

It’s normal to forget the day of the week or your destination – for a moment. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing how they got there or how to get home.

5. Poor or decreased judgment

People may sometimes put off going to a doctor if they have an infection, but eventually seek medical attention. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have decreased judgment, for example not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing heavy clothing on a hot day.

6. Problems with abstract thinking

From time to time, people may have difficulty with tasks that require abstract thinking, such as balancing a chequebook. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have significant difficulties with such tasks, for example not recognizing what the numbers in the chequebook mean.

7. Misplacing things

Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

8. Changes in mood and behaviour

Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease can exhibit mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in personality

People’s personalities can change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer’s disease can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Changes may also include apathy, fearfulness or acting out of character.

10. Loss of initiative

It’s normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, and require cues and prompting to become involved.

Again – if you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor!

Avalon Tournier is the Support and Education Co-ordinator for the Alzheimer’s Society of BC and is responsible for Surrey, North Delta and White. Her office number is 604-541-0606.

The South Surrey White Rock Seniors Health Network is a community-based coalition of multiple seniors service providers led by Dr. Grace Park and working under the auspices of the mayor of White Rock. If you have a question to be considered for publication, please email seniorshealthnetworksswr@gmail.com

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