When talking about illness, each condition has its own set of warning signs. For Alzheimer's there are 10 of them. If you experience any of these signs see your doctor or contact the Saint Lucia Alzheimer's and Dementia Association for more information or for a memory screening.
Warning Sign Number Five: impaired judgement.
Examples of this can range from a patient having a lack of ability to recognize a serious medical condition to giving excessively large amounts of money to charity. They can also not pay attention to safety in their environment like when walking away from the stove with burners on but not cooking anything or forgetting the stove is on. They may also over-dress or under-dress or put clothes on backwards or shoes on the wrong foot.
Many times, this sign will seem subtle at first and as time passes things seem to become okay until something more serious is noted. When family tries to address it with their loved one, the family will likely get resistance because the person is unaware that anything is wrong and when you point it out they may be offended by the accusation. The person still has some logic in the beginning so, if this is a concern, it is best to write it down and log it. Find a calm, kind way to bring it to their attention and tell them that you love them and are concerned and ask if they would see a doctor for you.
Questions about warning signs: Q: My mother lives alone. My sister, who lives near her, stated that mom is forgetful and that she has a new neighbour friend that helps her in her garden. She noticed mom really likes her and gives her things all the time. Mom is known for that, but she seems to be giving a little more than usual. Is there a way we can talk to the neighbour without offending mom or the neighbour?
A: It's wise to be careful. For the neighbour, you will want to thank her for helping your mom and ask her in private if she has noticed any forgetfulness and any other behaviours that are out of character for your mom. Ask her directly if she can remember the items your mom has given her and let her know your concern. If you do not trust the person you have another situation on your hands. Take an inventory and, if possible, remove some of the heirlooms in the house. If the items are not a concern, then focus on the changes with your mom. The neighbour may be a wonderful help in getting her to the doctor.
Q: I am working with a patient who lives on her own. I was hired to keep her company. I have noticed that she pulls out large amounts of money from the bank. She does this every couple of days. I don’t know what she does with the money. I have told the family that she goes to the bank a lot. They don’t seem too concerned, but I think something is going on. She doesn’t spend much money at all when we go out. But she keeps collecting the money. I have asked her what she does with all that money and she says, “I keep all my money.” How should I deal with this?
A: I would find out if all of her bills are being paid. If she is late more than two months, I would let the family know. Sometimes in early stages of Alzheimer's or a related dementia, people will have a big issue with money. They want to have control of all of their money. This is something the family should be concerned about if the need to control her money becomes out of hand to the point that she does not pay bills or she may be thinking people are taking her money.
Regina Posvar is the current president of the Saint Lucia Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association and has been a licensed nurse for 25 years. SLADA is supported by volunteers and donations and aims to bring awareness and support by providing awareness public workshops, family support, memory screenings, the Memory Café, counseling and family training for coping skills and communication with persons living with dementia.