ALZHEIMER’S WARNING SIGN NUMBER ONE
Warning signs are indications of a potential hazard, obstacle or condition requiring special attention. When talking about illnesses, each condition has its own set of warning signs. For Alzheimer’s disease there are ten known ones. For the next few weeks this column will take a closer look at each. If you experience any of these signs, please see your doctor or contact Saint Lucia Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association for more information or for a memory screening. Memory loss that affects dayto-day abilities, forgetting things frequently and the inability to hold on to new information is the first warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease. A common misconception is that the sign also includes when we forget a name once in a while and remember later. The truth is this happens to everyone. However, not holding on to new information is not a normal sign of aging. It doesn’t always mean we have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. However, you are strongly encouraged to get it checked out.
It is common for one to think that forgetting is due to aging or stress. So people ignore what the mind and body is saying. This is a mistake that can cost your entire life as you remember it. Many people who know and recognize that they are struggling with their memory or thinking, take no action. They are negligent, embarrassed or in denial that something is not right.
Memory loss that doesn’t affect someone everyday but brings a concern should not be ignored. This is a good time to check your health. If all is clear it is the best time to strengthen your memory and thinking before it becomes a problem every day.
Here are some questions concerning other warning signs of patients with dementia See if they help you detect dementia or answer a similar question you may have: Q: My mother is in the late stage of Alzheimer’s and she grinds her teeth. Is this a sign of the end?
Teeth grinding is not usual in a patient who is dying. However, your mother could be in pain, be hungry or thirsty, or even stressed. There are many reasons but dying is not common. You can try a mouth guard to protect her teeth and look for other signs that would support pain or anxiety. Try her favourite music as sometimes this is calming. Q: My aunt has dementia and she lives on her own. She has lost a lot of weight. She says she is eating but clearly, she is not. I do not know how to get her to eat. What can we do?
More than likely your aunt is forgetting and her taste buds are changing. Is she a social eater? Maybe she likes to have company at meal times. You can try preparing her meals for her and see if this will work. Q: My father was taken to the hospital yesterday and they said he had an infection. He couldn’t stand so I could bathe him and he was very disoriented. The doctors gave him antibiotics and he is back home and still cannot walk. Is this normal with dementia? Does it affect people’s ability to walk?
Your father will improve after he finishes his antibiotic treatment. Towards the end of Alzheimer’s disease, movement is affected. People living with dementia may experience hunching with legs drawn inwards, returning to the foetal position. This does affect standing and walking which is a high risk for falls. Balance is usually affected during this time. A dementia-trained physical and occupational therapist is an effective solution. Regina Posvar is the current president of the St. Lucian 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.
Forgetfulness is not only a sign of aging, it could mean dementia too.