Let­ters and Num­bers that Move Around

The Star (St. Lucia) - - HEALTH - By Regina Pos­var

When deal­ing with ill­ness, each con­di­tion has its own set of warn­ing signs. For Alzheimer’s dis­ease, there are ten of them and this week we will look at the sixth one. 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 Six: Trou­ble with ab­stract think­ing.

An ex­am­ple of this could be strug­gling to balance a cheque­book or not un­der­stand­ing num­bers and how they work. A com­ment I re­mem­ber hear­ing from a per­son liv­ing with de­men­tia was, “Early on, I no­ticed things were chang­ing when it ap­peared that the num­bers on the page started jump­ing around.”

This can also hap­pen when peo­ple read. Peo­ple ob­serv­ing early signs of de­men­tia can ei­ther be­come scared by them while oth­ers pay ab­so­lutely no at­ten­tion to it.

The ones who pay no at­ten­tion have the abil­ity to hide their chal­lenges most of the time, but this leads to more dam­age to the brain. Peo­ple in this group tend to brush off the in­stanced or ex­cuse it for “just hav­ing a bad day”. And, be­cause of their abil­ity to func­tion nor­mally in other ar­eas, this warn­ing sign doesn’t get no­ticed by oth­ers un­til after the per­son is di­ag­nosed in the mid­dle stages of Alzheimer’s.

Those who be­come fright­ened about the changes may be­come em­bar­rassed and not want oth­ers to know about it or don’t like the way oth­ers treat them after a mis­take is made. This group may iso­late them­selves. It’s also pos­si­ble for them to de­velop de­pres­sion, and many times the de­pres­sion is noted but not the changes that lead to it. In this case the warn­ing signs of de­men­tia go un­de­tected again.

Un­for­tu­nately, de­pres­sion symp­toms mimic those of de­men­tia. So, if the de­pres­sion symp­toms are treated, and the per­son seems to be a lit­tle so­cial, fam­ily will as­sume that the med­i­ca­tion is work­ing. How­ever, silently the per­son is still strug­gling with cog­ni­tive think­ing.

I be­lieve we, as med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, have failed to help our clients in these con­di­tions by not mon­i­tor­ing them closely enough to de­tect the dif­fer­ence. We tend to give tablets and, if the client doesn’t com­plain, then ev­ery­thing is fine.

I en­cour­age clients, and fam­i­lies con­cerned, to seek more an­swers. It’s okay to get sec­ond opin­ions, and it’s fine to mon­i­tor and keep records on your­self and then give this in­for­ma­tion to your doc­tor. The more in­for­ma­tion a doc­tor is given, the bet­ter the di­ag­no­sis can be. Many doc­tors have more pa­tients than they can han­dle so they deal with just the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided and move on to the next client. This is a time where we are re­spon­si­ble for our own health and can as­sist doc­tors. Many times, mis­di­ag­noses are made from lack of in­for­ma­tion. So be proac­tive and pay at­ten­tion to your own body and mind so you can in­form the ap­pro­pri­ate pro­fes­sion­als of changes.

Ques­tions about warn­ing signs:

Q: My mother has al­ways been a sto­ry­teller. She read to us fre­quently when grow­ing up but now, with her de­men­tia,

she strug­gles to read. How can we bring this joy back to her?

A: A per­son who reads sto­ries must also like to lis­ten to sto­ries. You can read her favourite sto­ries and an­i­mate the story while you read. You will be sur­prised at her re­sponse. You can also pur­chase books on tape or CD and get the book for her and see if she can fol­low along with the story told.

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, coun­selling and fam­ily train­ing for cop­ing skills and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with per­sons liv­ing with de­men­tia.

Some Alzheimer’s pa­tients have trou­ble fol­low­ing num­bers and let­ters on a page but some­times ig­nore it.

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