ALZHEIMER’S WARN­ING SIGN NUM­BER ONE

Un­der­stand­ing De­men­tia

The Star (St. Lucia) - - HEALTH - Warn­ing Sign Num­ber One: Other Warn­ing Signs

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?

A:

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?

A:

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.

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