Jul 26, 2012

Are Doctors and Older People Dumb?

The Alzheimer's knowledge base on this website is extensive and available to everyone in the Alzheimer's community.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I define older people as over the age of 60. The older old are over 80.

All kinds of things start happening to your body as you age. Many of them occur after you reach 60. Of course, each of us is different so the number 60 can be arbitrary. The point being certain diseases, illnesses, and medical problems are caused by the process of aging.

I used the title, Are Doctors and Older People Dumb?, to get your attention.

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I'll start with a simple question. If you are over 60 years of age or if you know someone over 60 years of age, have you had a concrete discussion with your doctor and test of your thyroid and vitamin b12 level?

Did you know the most common subtle medical problems that affect memory in older adults are thyroid disease and vitamin deficiency?

I'll take this one step further and say,
a sluggish thyroid, hypothyroidism, and or, a low level of vitamin b12 can make a person act like they are depressed, or worse like they are suffering from dementia like symptoms.
We now have more than two dozen readers, all women, that have told me they had a sluggish thyroid and after they were given a simple medication they felt like a new person.

All of these women felt either depressed or like they were in an early stage of dementia. They felt confused, sluggish, and often felt like their memory was deteriorating.

Are doctors dumb?

How many doctors have been proactive and said to you, or a loved one that is over the age of 60, I am going to check your thyroid or b12 level?

Did the doctor tell any of you,
the most common subtle medical problems that affect memory in older people are thyroid disease and vitamin deficiency? If so, get down to the comments box below and tell us about it.
Now I am going to recount my own experience with Dotty.

I read years ago that a sluggish thyroid, hypothyroidism, can present as dementia. I asked our doctor to give my mothers' thyroid a thorough check.

Guess what happened? The test did not indicate that Dotty was suffering from hypothyroidism, but in the words of our doctor, it looked suspicious. As a result, he decided to prescribe the lowest dose of a common thyroid medication, and to monitor my mothers' thyroid monthly.

The good news?

Dotty started to laugh and smile for the first time in two years. My mother had not smiled or laughed for two years before she started taking the medication. Two years of complete and total heart ache for me. Dotty couldn't tell me but I am sure it was also heartbreaking for her.

Next I read an article about how after the age of 60 the body has trouble absorbing b vitamins. Yes, this can happen even if you are eating well.

A low level of vitamin b12 can make a person act like they are depressed or demented.

Furthermore, over the years researchers are now discovering that these symptoms are more common and can come even with higher levels of b12 then was thought. It other words, they raised the lower band on the test that measures the level of vitamin b12 and that indicates a problem.

Back to Dotty.

After learning this, I asked my doctor to check my mother's b12 level. Answer, "suspicious". From that point on Dotty received a monthly vitamin b12 shot. The shot is the best alternative because it gets absorbed right into the blood.

Doctors are not very good at being proactive. How can they be? The typical appointment with a doctor is scheduled for 10 minutes or less. On top of that, most older people only go to the doctor when they are not feeling well.

So let me ask you this question?

How often do you get the oil changed in your car? Do you wait for the red light to go on, or for the car to blow up before you get it checked? Do you wait until your car is sick?

Or, do you get the oil changed every three months, or every 3,000 miles or so?

Changing the oil in an automobile is considered to be preventive maintenance. In other words, you get a $25 oil change instead of waiting around and then spending several thousand dollars replacing the engine in your car.

What is more important to you? Your body or your car?

In the headline I asked, Are Older People Dumb?

Yes we are. This includes me by the way. Although, while caring for Dotty I learned a great deal about how to care of Dotty, and how to better care for you and me.

Here is a picture of Dotty in 2005 after she was diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's. I took this picture before she received the thyroid medication, before she started receiving the b12 shots, and while she was in the period of not laughing for two years.

Dotty Einstein

Here is a picture of Dotty on June 29, 2011. During those 6 years, Dotty's memory continued a slow steady decline. She scored lower and lower on all the memory tests.

Sweet Dotty

How do you explain that she looked better and seemed happier?

It is a long story and I wrote about it here over the years.

You can use the search box on the right hand side of the page. You can put in words like: thyroid, B12, incontinence, urinary tract infection, etc., and get lots of good information.

The Alzheimer's knowledge base on this website is extensive and available to anyone in the Alzheimer's community that wants to use it.

Use the search box on the right to find the information you want and need.

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,711 articles with more than 302,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room