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As we age, it is tempting to attribute all of the gradual changes our bodies go through — including our changes in memory — to the normal process of aging. There are some changes that we should be more attentive to, including those memory lapses that begin to affect our quality of life.
The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado has developed a helpful checklist of 10 signs to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s. Why is early detection important? Without it, the ones we love may wait too long to make necessary lifestyle changes that are important to ensure that all medical care options are explored, ranging from medications to research. Other considerations include personal safety as well as quality of care, and to make necessary financial and estate planning adjustments.
Here is a brief overview of the 10 signs:
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. A typical age-related memory change is occasionally forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later. A common sign of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stages, is forgetting recently learned information. The increasing need to rely on memory aids (reminder notes, electronic devices) or family members for things that one previously handled on their own is a sign.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Making occasional errors, such as checkbook balancing, is not uncommon. If a person experiences changes in the ability to follow a plan or work with numbers, or has difficulty concentrating and completing a task, that may be a concern.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget, or remembering the rules of a familiar game.
4. Confusion with time or place. Losing track of dates, seasons and the passage of time is another indication. Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s can forget where they are or how they got there.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. For some individuals, vision problems can be a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (such as, calling a “watch” a “hand clock”).
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Putting things in unusual places and being unable to find them. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing - with more frequency over time.
8. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may also pay less attention to grooming and personal cleanliness.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. Some individuals may avoid being social because of changes they’re experiencing, removing themselves from work projects, hobbies and sports.
10. Changes in mood and personality. Increased incidences of confusion, suspicion, depression, fear or anxiety can be a sign. Individuals can become more easily upset at home, work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing any of the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, please see your doctor to explore the cause. Early diagnosis is an important step in seeking treatment and planning for your future.
For more information, contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900. For other matters, the Denver office of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado can be reached at 303-813-1669. Jim Herlihy is the marketing and communications director at the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado and Tina Wells is the director of education and outreach. This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County, which invites readers to its next meeting on at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 7 in the hearing room at the Douglas County Government Building, 100 Third Street, Castle Rock. A holiday reception with refreshments will follow the meeting. For more information, please visit MyDougCoSeniorLife.com, email DCSeniorLife@douglas.co.us or call 303-663-7681.
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