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10 Things to Know About Alzheimers Disease

- Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two-thirds of Americans have done virtually nothing to plan for long-term care. Older kids become the legal guardians of their parents, but don’t discuss specifics for the future. As a result, Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer's care has had a significant impact on families, caregivers and society.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America has compiled a list of "10 Things You Should Know About Alzheimer's Disease" and how to recognize it early and steps every family impacted should take to plan for the future.

1. "Old age" is not an excuse.
While some memory loss, cognitive decline and behavioral changes are normal as we age, Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging.

2. Look for patterns.
Everyone forgets someone's name or what we ate for breakfast. But consistent forgetting raises a red flag. It's easy for anyone to forget to pay a bill once. There is a problem if the same statement gets paid five times or if months go by without paying bills.

3. Symptoms can mimic other conditions.
Identifying the disease or problem that is causing memory loss helps with next steps. Some memory problems can be readily treated, such as those caused by vitamin deficiencies, depression or thyroid conditions. Other memory problems might result from causes that are not currently reversible, such as Alzheimer's disease. With Alzheimer's disease, symptoms gradually increase and become more persistent.

4. Not every case is the same.
There are general warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, but not everyone exhibits the same ones or at the same time in the progression of the illness.

5. Alzheimer's impacts day-to-day living.
Alzheimer's disease also affects a person's ability to function day-to-day. It can cause difficulty performing familiar tasks like dressing or bathing; misplacing items more frequently; becoming lost; and loss of interest in important responsibilities. The concern is not so much if someone forgets where the car keys are, but if the person does not know what the keys are used for.

6. Alzheimer's disease has cognitive symptoms.
Common cognitive symptoms include: short-term memory loss, problems with verbal communication, confusion about time or place or people, trouble concentrating, lack of judgment, difficulty performing familiar tasks, misplacing items, as well as the symptoms listed above.

7. Alzheimer's disease has behavioral symptoms.
Behavioral symptoms include personality changes, unexplainable mood swings, sundowning -- increased agitation in the late afternoon/early evening, irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, expressing false beliefs, depression and inappropriate sexual behavior

8. Check out warning signs.
According to a study of participants who obtained free, confidential memory screenings 74% were worried about their memory, but 83% of them had not discussed concerns with their health care provider. Start with your primary care physician. Depending on findings, the physician may recommend follow-up with a specialist.

9. Diagnosis is 90% accurate.
Clinicians can now diagnose Alzheimer's disease with up to 90% accuracy. Diagnosing "probable" Alzheimer's disease involves taking a complete medical history and conducting lab tests, a physical exam, neuro-psychological tests that gauge memory, attention, language skills and problem-solving abilities, and brain scans.

10. Don't just take the diagnosis and run.
Good communication can maximize your visit to a physician. Ask questions

Next steps should include getting better-educated about the disease, obtaining support services and planning for the future. For more information on Alzheimer’s care facilities, contact Spring Arbor.