Letters and Numbers that Move Around
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.