Diagnosing dementia

ACCORDING TO THE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; www.cdc.gov), Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps the most common form of dementia, although several other forms exist.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Rather it describes a collection of symptoms caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain. Doctors diagnose dementia when two or more brain functions, such as memory and language skills, are significantly impaired without a loss of consciousness that might otherwise occur as a result of traumatic brain injury. Alzheimer’s is the most progressive stage of dementia and affects upwards of 5.3 million Americans.

Because we are a society whose inhabitants are clearly enjoying longer life spans, some experts have characterized dementia as an old person’s disease. Although treatable, dementia is far from curable. Doctors can prescribe medications to improve or slow the progression of patients’ symptoms, while researchers continue to focus on all forms of the illness, including Alzheimer’s.

Risk factors to consider when evaluating those suspected of having dementia include:

● Age—adults 60 and older could develop signs of dementia.
● Family history (aunts, uncles, cousins)
● Heredity (parents and grandparents)

Being proactive and providing this and other information will help your family physician or medical staff determine links to the disease’s origin.

Early signs of dementia where the disease might be considered suspect are:

● Forgetfulness—not just occasionally misplacing glasses or car keys, but a constant forgetfulness that is noticed by friends and family
● Putting things in the wrong places, such as putting the iron in the refrigerator, or the milk in the cupboard
● Being unable to follow simple directions, such as going somewhere one has always gone and getting lost
● Loss of interest in favorite hobbies
● Personality changes

These are just a few early signs that something might be amiss in someone experiencing the signs of early dementia.

It’s always best to get a physician’s recommendation before attempting to diagnose any illness. Dementia, according to the
CDC, can be caused by a variety of things, including a reaction to certain medications, infections and nutritional deficiencies, which may be reversed with proper treatment.

Researchers are focusing on these forms of dementia in an effort to improve people’s lives and ultimately prevent or cure these disorders.

For more insights, visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website on dementia at www.ninds.nih.gov.

Source: Clara Freeman – CostcoConnection

Stuck on Memory Lane?

Everyone forgets where they parked the car now and then. But if you find those incidents are happening often, it could be signaling something more serious — like Alzheimer’s. Learn the 10 indicators of this progressive disorder:

Memory problems like forgetting important dates and repeatedly asking for the same information

Challenges with basic procedures such as following a recipe or balancing the checkbook

Difficulty completing familiar tasks like driving an often used route or recalling the rules of a favorite game

Confusion about time and/or place

Trouble understanding visual or spatial information

New problems with words when speaking or writing

Misplacing things, then being unable to retrace steps

Decreased judgment when interacting with others or managing basic hygiene

Withdrawal from activities or hobbies due to embarrassment

Mood or personality changes.

If any of these signs persists or worsens, seek a doctor’s advice right away. While there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, early detection can mean valuable support and beneficial treatments.

The Long Good-Bye

Alzheimer’s disease attacks nearly four million people every year. Recent genetic discoveries may better explain why it happens, but what can be done to delay it? Doctors in Seattle may have found one answer.

For 20 years, Howard ran his own civil engineering firm. He spent his life doing math. Now, he struggles to add three numbers.

Howard, has Alzheimer’s:
“I just get confused on what that fourth number is going to be.”

At 59, Alzheimer’s disease has robbed his mind. He’s put notes everywhere to remind him of phone numbers and favorite quotes.

Marli, wife:
“One day Howard wanted to fix himself a sandwich and he had the cheese and the ham and the bread all laid out, couldn’t put it together.”

Howard and Marli know they can’t reverse the disease. So Howard is part of a study looking at insulin and memory.

Suzanne Craft, Ph.D., neuropsychologist:
“What we’ve been observing is that when we provide insulin to these patients we are able to measurably improve their memory.”

The goal is to delay the disease.

Suzanne Craft, Ph.D.:
“By delaying it as little as five years, you would reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease by almost half.”

Five years for the Edde family is important.

Sonja, daughter:
“I keep telling him that I love him every time I see him because I know that someday he won’t be able to understand that.”

Marli:
“You know when you get married that one day one of you is going to say good-bye to the other one.”

Howard:
“Alzheimer’s is a disease that’s sometimes been called the long good-bye. And I think that’s about the most appropriate words for the description of the disease.”

The next step in research is to have patients receive insulin continually to see if memory can be enhanced for a longer period of time.