May 9, 2014

Mother's Day -- Caregivers Write About the Early Signs of Dementia

Alzheimer's and related dementia are hard to detect in the early stages. Studies indicate that personal care doctors are not very good at diagnosing dementia.
What can you do?

Caregivers Write About the Early Signs of Dementia

Bob De Marco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Changes in memory and behavior are usually very subtle in an early stage of dementia. Persons in an early stage of Alzheimer's can still function on their own while they begin to evidence sudden changes in thinking, judgement, and memory.

When a person starts evidencing changes in behavior consistent with early stage dementia family and friends often conclude that these behaviors are simply a sign of "getting old". This happened to us.

Everyone told me, she is just getting old. This included my mother's personal care doctor at the time.

If your stomach tells you there is something wrong; or, if you are concerned or worried about the behavior changes in an older family member or friend the solution is simple -- get their memory tested.

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The failure to take action early often leads to greater heart ache, stress, and anxiety.

The failure to take action often results in feelings of guilt.

What Was the First Sign of Alzheimer's Disease in Your Case?

In the article, What Was the First Sign of Alzheimer's Disease in Your Case?, I asked this question,

Was memory loss the first sign of dementia or did something else tip you off that something was wrong?

More than 300 Alzheimer's caregivers commented and shared their experience with us here in the Alzheimer's Reading Room.

You can read all 331 comments here. They are very informative.

Here are a few examples.

Doloress -- His first car accident in his life, and it was his fault. When questioned, he couldn't explain to me how it happened.

Donna -- My husband forgot where we were going. I thought he was joking, but then he yelled at me "WHERE ARE WE GOING" when I told him we were going to pick up the lawnmower, he had to turn the car around. That was the beginning.

BrennaB -- My dad quit using the remote control for the television and quit answering the phone; he avoided social interactions and finally became unable to balance the checkbook although he had been an accountant in his professional life.

Judy -- I remember clearly the moment I knew something was wrong - that evening when other oddities seemed to fit. We were having friends over for dinner in our home and mother and daddy joined us. In the midst of conversation and laughter I glanced at my mother and realized the look on her face - that empty stare - was not good.

Debbie -- Looking back for my Mom, it was fear of so many things and anger. She would babysit my neices kids and not let them go outside on a beautiful day because they might fall or a branch might fall from a tree and hit them.

Mike Donohue -- My sign was easy. My wife's concern about my driving prompting me to reluctantly see our Doctor. The rest is history! After seeing the doctor I still could not believe it. To prove Diane my wife and the doctor wrong I schedule and took a driving simulation exam offered by Sr. Kenny Institute in Mpls. I failed it miserably and had to face what I couldn't see.

Elsabae -- My husband is usually outgoing. When his son got married it was a multiple day affair, with a succession of events. My husband found it very confusing, repeatedly asked about the schedule and became increasingly irritable and withdrawn. His "unfriendliness" offended people including his new in-laws and his own sons.

Carole Larkin -- Fender benders. Getting locked out of the house. Can't balance the check book. That was my mom!

Gail -- He used a lot of wrong words in his sentences, words that were close or similar to what he should have said. He also couldn't remember things in the correct order.

RLB -- Repetition of questions. Wife goes to the grocery store and comes home with items we already have sufficient supply of or has a thought that we need more of the the same items.

Diane Roeder -- He'd been a businessman and was careful with his finances but he became a victim of mail scammers.

Sally -- My mom was doing weird things, cereal in bowls in drawers, hanging up her used paper towels, etc but the undeniable real tip off was when she hid all her ice cream under her bed so no one would take it. Poor Mom.

Marjie -- I saw a comment that completely hit home - the husband who didn't remember how to start the grill. That's exactly what happened with my husband this summer, and he had loved to grill.

Ann Norman -- My Mom is on her way to book club, a gathering which she's attended once a month for the past 50 years. Suddenly she doesn't recognize the familiar street, or the houses or anything around her. She's wide awake, but it's like a nightmare.....

Jocelyn Delaney -- It was memory for me, we had shifted house and my husband would turn down the wrong street and if I said this is the wrong way he would reply that he was just seeing what was down there. Plus our children would tell him something on the phone about the grandchildren and when he got off and I asked him what it was he couldn't remember what they had said. Thinking back their were earlier signs but they never really triggered anything in my mind.

Diane -- 4 years ago my Mom started hearing the phone ringing multiple times in the middle of the night for months on end...she drove two phone companies crazy checking the poles, connections to the house, even crawling under the house to check.. all technology was perfect. When I visited I never heard any phone ringing, however, she'd wake me up saying "did you hear the phone it just rang".....

Louise -- Paranoia about her cat. She used to let the cat roam free and not worry too much. Suddenly she started locking it inside and never allowing it out on its own. She'd go and sit outside with it, but if it tried to walk anywhere she'd panic and go and get the cat and take it back inside.....

Thanks to all the Alzheimer's caregivers and industry specialist that took the time to share their wisdom and experience here in the Alzheimer's Reading Room.

Please feel free to add your own observations, insights, and advice in the comments section below.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room