Partners in living well: On memory loss
By: Kirsten Cruikshank, director, Community Partners, Lake County News Chronicle
I had a neighbor once who called every cookie a “spice cookie,” I could make chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies or oatmeal cookies, but to her they were all spice cookies. If I was in my yard in the afternoon, she would yell out to me: “Have you had your coffee yet?” And I would go over and share coffee and a spice cookie. Her memory loss was pleasant and she was able to live on her own into her 90s despite her deficits. Many of us and our loved ones will experience this type of age-related memory loss.
On the other hand, there are individuals who suffer from more serious forms of memory loss called Alzheimer’s disease. As they age they may be driving to a familiar place, but forget how to get there. Over time they may not be able to balance the checkbook or make travel plans. They may, however, be able to recite a childhood poem, sing a song or dance with a loved one.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain. It is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. I’ve heard workshop presenters say: “Once you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s Disease,” meaning that everyone experiences the disease in a different way. A doctor may diagnose Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but he or she cannot predict exactly what is going to happen.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms. Every individual may experience one or more of these signs different degrees. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.
For a list of 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s visit www.alz.org website. If you notice any of the 10 warning signs in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. Why is it important to know? Knowing can help relieve the burden of loved ones.Knowing can give you the language to talk about and plan for the future so that your wishes are honored.
The Alzheimer’s Association promotes early detection. They say that with early detection, you can get the maximum benefit from available treatments. You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer. You may also increase your chances of participating in clinical drug trials that help advance research.
Another benefit of early detection is that you have more time to plan for the future. The correct diagnosis allows you to take part in decisions about care, transportation, living options, and financial and legal matters. You can also participate in building the right care team and social support network.
If you or a family member have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, there is help available for you and your loved ones. Care and support services are available, making it easier for you and your family to live the best life possible with Alzheimer’s or dementia. For example, Community Partners offers two support groups for family caregivers. One is held on the second Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at Lake View Hospital, and the other is held on the fourth Wednesday of the month at AEOA. The facilitators are trained by the Alzheimer’s Association.
When you talk with your doctor, he or she will evaluate your overall health and identify any conditions that could affect how well your mind is working. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist:
• Neurologist — specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system
• Psychiatrist — specializes in disorders that affect mood or the way the mind works
• Psychologist — has special training in testing memory and other mental functions
• Geriatrician — specializes in the care of older adults and Alzheimer’s disease
Join us for a workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 1–2:30 p.m. at the Two Harbors Community Center. Gwen Dezelske, Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association Duluth office will be on hand to discuss concerns about the disease and hope for the future. This workshop is free and open to the public, with snacks provided by Socially Active Seniors. Call 834-8024 for more information.