Aug 26, 2015

Maybe Your Loved One’s Memory Problems Aren’t Alzheimer’s After All

With all the publicity and interest in Alzheimer’s these days, it wouldn’t be unusual for you to worry that you or your loved one is developing the disease.

Brain Memory | Alzheimer's Reading Room

You may fear that the memory problems are clear signs of the disease. However, many articles have listed conditions that mimic Alzheimer’s. A recent article by Michael Simon, JD, MPH, for example, states that in some people with memory problems,
“Alzheimer's disease was the cause in fewer than half of the cases; in fact, about 20 percent had problems that could be reversed with treatment. Depression, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, and alcohol dependence are among the treatable problems that can mimic Alzheimer's disease.”

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By Marie Marley
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Let me add to this list by recounting my personal experience.

Three years ago I was exhibiting many clear signs of Alzheimer’s. My short-term memory and level of alertness were quite impaired, and I was also having serious problems with cognition. In addition I was having numerous falls. All of these are classic symptoms of the disease.

I have published more than 200 articles on Alzheimer’s here on the Alzheimer’s Reading Room and on other websites. And I wrote an award-winning book dealing with Alzheimer’s  - Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy.

Come Back Early Today | Alzheimer's Reading Room

I’m currently writing another book (Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s: New Hope for Caregivers) with Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN. It was ironic that I appeared to be developing the disease myself.

I was distraught, and as is typical, my friends and family, as is often the case, insisted nothing was wrong. They tried to reassure me that my symptoms were not serious. Some said that my familiarity with Alzheimer’s disease was causing me to be overly sensitive to my symptoms.

I immediately went to a neurologist and a neuropsychologist to be evaluated. After numerous tests they concluded that I could be developing Alzheimer’s.

However, the neurologist said, my symptoms could be due to stress, the severe sleep apnea he found I had, and some medications I was taking for a chronic condition.

I decided to take action to eliminate the above issues in order to determine if they were, in fact, the cause of my problems.

I retired early from my stressful job (against the advice of my financial planner), got treatment for the sleep apnea, and was able, little by little, to reduce some of the medications.

Over time most of my symptoms gradually disappeared. I visited the neurologist once a year for three years for follow-up.

At my third annual visit, he determined that based on his three examinations, I don’t have Alzheimer’s, I’m not getting it, and I don’t have to go back to see him anymore!

You can imagine my relief.

This just goes to show that, no matter how scary it is, a person with symptoms of the condition should go to a doctor to be evaluated as soon as possible, and that some symptoms may be not due to Alzheimer’s, and in fact, may be completely reversed.


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