Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
Alzheimer’s Vs. Typical Age-Related Changes
November is Alzheimer’s disease awareness month. According to the National Institute on Aging, there are approximately 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and over 15 million people serve as their caregivers. For reasons that are not clear, about two-thirds of those living with this disease are women and Alzheimer’s is more prevalent in those over 65.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are early warning signs but they are often confused with typical age related changes and not reported to a physician. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias versus typical age related changes.
- Repeated poor judgment and decision making
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Challenges in planning and problem solving
- Misplacing frequently used things and inability to retrace steps to locate them
- Confusion with time or place
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Changes in mood or personality
Typical age related changes may include but are not limited to:
- Forgetting what day it is but remembering later
- Missing a monthly payment occasionally
- Sometimes forgetting which word to use
- Losing things from time to time
- Making a poor choice once in a while
- Feeling weary of social obligations and sometimes staying home
It is normal to fear that any of these normal changes means something worse. If you are wondering if you have a problem, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. Write down your questions and take a friend or family member with you to discuss your concerns.
The Alzheimer’s Association is an excellent resource for information about the disease. They operate a 24/7 Helpline for people seeking information and support. If you call 800-272-3900 you can speak confidently with a care consultant that can help with:
- Information about the signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias
- Find out about local programs and services
- Decision making support, crisis assistance and education on issues faced every day
- Get general information about medications, other treatment options, legal, financial and care decisions
- Information on safety services such as Lifeline and the Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return program. Safe Return provides assistance when someone with the disease wanders or has a medical emergency.
- Support and education for caregivers
HealthLink, in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, offers free monthly education programs. This month’s program will be held on November 22 entitled “Alzheimer’s: Managing Behaviors” from 1 to 2 p.m. and again from 6 to 7 p.m. We also offer monthly support group meetings held on the second Thursday of each month from 4 to 5 p.m.
For more information or to attend one of these programs, call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our NEW wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.