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Trends in aging: Alzheimer's vs. Normal Aging

By By Wendy McHaney
Nov. 8, 2013 at 5:08 a.m.

Wendy McHaney

The Alzheimer's Association has identified 10 warning signs that could indicate Alzheimer's disease.

In my last column on Oct. 26, I discussed the first five warning signs. This column continues with last five signs. Anyone who has experienced any of these signs, or knows someone who has, is encouraged to seek a consultation with a qualified professional.

6. People with Alzheimer's tend to develop new problems with words in speaking or writing, such as having trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name, such as calling a watch a "hand clock." Normal aging is sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. Another warning sign is misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. In particular, putting things in unusual places. Sometimes they will accuse others of stealing an item they have misplaced, and it may occur more frequently over time. Normal aging is misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

8. People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgement or decision making. An example would be giving large amounts of money to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean. Making a bad decision once in a while is typical.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities is another warning sign. A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced. Normal aging is feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10. The final warning sign is changes in mood and personality. Someone with Alzheimer's can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone. However, it is normal to develop very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

In honor of raising Alzheimer's Awareness, National Memory Screening Day, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, is Nov. 19. At the time of this publication, no local sites were listed on the Foundation's website as participating in the event.

Senior Helpers conducts weekly memory screenings at their office from 2 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday. For more information, call 361-894-8901.

My next column will begin a six-part series on the stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Sources: Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit seniorhelpers.com/victoria

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