National Alzheimer's Awareness Month: Raising Awareness on the Early Signs of Alzheimer's
Family celebrations such as Christmas, Eid the Muslim festival to mark the end of Ramadan, the Jewish holiday of Hanukka are times when we get together with relatives and friends. It can also be times when we spot that someone in the family, especially the older members, might be showing signs of dementia.
Dementia is not a single illness but a group of symptoms that result in damage to brain cells or the connection between them. One type of dementia is Alzheimer's and it accounts for between 60 to 80 percent of all cases. Treatments offered by a doctor will depend on the underlying cause or causes, and the symptoms the person is having.
Early and supportive interventions allow people to plan for the future while they still can. It has been shown to improve the quality of life of the person with dementia, their family, caregivers and friends.
What are the common symptoms of Alzheimer's to look for? Well the major one most people think of are memory problems; difficulty remembering names, recent events, forgetting where they have put objects. Of course many of us forget stuff and it does not mean we have Alzheimer's. For someone to have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's doctors use criteria laid down in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).(1)
Memory difficulties combined with at least one of a number of other deficits of cognitive abilities lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. These include:
- Inability to generate coherent speech or understand the spoken or written language.
- Inability to recognize or identify objects, assuming intact sensory function, for instance, no deafness, problems with sight.
- Inability to execute motor activities, assuming intact motor abilities, sensory function and comprehension of the required task.
- Inability to think abstractly, make sound judgments and plan and carry out complex tasks.
Any decline in these cognitive abilities must be severe enough to interfere with activities of daily life.
Early diagnosis means the family can offer support and help them make plans for the future. Dorian Martin has written about taking care of legal issues. As she says it can prevent stress and confusion about their wishes at a later date.
This link also gives you some more information on how Alzheimer's affects legal issues
Carol Bradley Bursack has written a sharepost with lots of information on Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) memory screening day on November 15th if you currently have concerns about a family member.
Encouraging a family member to seek medical intervention should start with a visit to their family doctor. He/she can then refer them on for further tests before treatments if required.