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nursing home, but I feel I did so too soon. How do you know when a person should go into a nursing home? — L.D.
ANSWER: A degree of shortterm memory loss happens to everyone who lives long enough. It’s the kind of forgetting that makes us unable to recall where we put the keys, what we saw on TV last night or makes us struggle to remember a person’s name. Serious memory loss is much more profound. It’s the kind of memory loss that makes a person forget the way home, makes it impossible to recognize close family members and makes it difficult to carry out normal daily activities, like dressing. Other signs of dementia are slow thinking, the inability to learn and the inability to do simple arithmetic, like balancing a chequebook. Personality changes often are part of dementia.
When is the optimum time to arrange for care of an impaired spouse or relative? When the affected person cannot take care of himself or herself, and is a danger to himself or herself and when the caregiver cannot provide the kind of required basic care necessary for that person’s needs.
The decision can be made with the help of experts — doctors who can test people for their mental functioning and their need for constant assistance.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Can you tell me about the pituitary gland? I was told I have something wrong with mine. — C.
ANSWER: The pituitary gland is quite small, around 0.4 inches from side to side and from top to bottom. It’s attached to the undersurface of the brain. For a small gland, it has huge jobs. It produces hormones that regulate other glands, like the thyroid and adrenal glands and the ovaries and testes. Troubles arise when the pituitary gland makes too little or too much of its regulating hormones. One somewhat common pituitary disorder for young women and men is an overproduction of prolactin, a hormone that promotes milk production. Too much prolactin throws off a woman’s periods, causes infertility and stimulates the breasts to secrete milk. In men, it leads to a drop in testosterone production, erectile dysfunction and a loss of the sex drive.