People often tell me that they are worried about a loved one because they are beginning to forget things, so they ask how can they know if it might be dementia. Here are some tips on how to determine if it is normal aging or not:
- Forgetting the name of someone, particularly someone that you haven't seen in awhile.
- Finding it difficult to recall the right word to express oneself, or even not remembering the name of an object, event, or some other thing, particularly something that is not completely familiar.
Those are a normal part of aging. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are much more problematic. For example:
- Difficulties in ordinary tasks and daily activities—forgetting appointments, directions, starting the water for a shower and then getting dressed without taking the shower while leaving the water running, problems balancing a checkbook, problems with meal preparation and clean up.
- Making unusual decisions or acting inappropriately.
- Difficulty learning new things—still returning to an old address instead of a new one.
- Dependency—fear of leaving familiar surroundings, suspicious of the activities of others overly dependent on others such as family members or even strangers.
- Social withdrawal, apathy, and passivity—a loss of interest and activities of friends, tendency to sit watching television for hours or staring into space, sleeping more than usual, speaking and communicating little.
For family and friends of a person experiencing the onset of Alzheimer's disease, there is a period of denial. Most of the time the onset is very subtle. It can be very frightening to look into the future of someone with the disease for those who live and work with them. The disease can last for many years, and the person will usually die as a result of something else.
A successful environment for someone with Alzheimer's disease is the result of attention to the smallest detail. The environment must respect individual independence while maintaining security, privacy while allowing companionship, and provide stimulation. We should never strive to modify the individual to suit the environment, but instead creatively modify environment to meet the needs of the individual, so that the environment can enhance to quality of the life for the person affected with Alzheimer's disease.