Thursday, May 26, 2011


We've been through all these symptoms with Mom (who died Jan 23, 2010). We should have known but didn't. The problem is that, while there are a number of support agencies, groups, and people there is no dissemination of this information. Also, it differs from area to area. For far too long we ascribed certain behaviors to "age" or "eccentricities" and were too comfortable with them, given our experiences with other family members over the years (none of whom we know to have had Alzheimer's). Mom exhibited each of these symptoms and she knew something was wrong. Still, it required my intervention to have her evaluated and prescribed medication to deal with it. Even though her doctor saw her regularly, he did nothing about this. Even though the nurses told me they had "been worried about Eleanor for a while," nothing had been done. As it stands now researchers apparently believe that there are both genetic and environmental reasons for the build-up of plaque on the neural receptors which is the cause of Alzheimer's. There are some drugs which do seem to mitigate the progress of the disease but no cure. Those of us who have lived with and/or cared for those who have the disease understand just how terrible it is. Fortunately, the disease doesn't directly cause discomfort or pain for the victim. With the proper care it is possible for someone so afflicted to live out their life in complete physical comfort. However, it is important for family and friends to properly recognize the signs of the disease. Here are 8 symptoms you should look for.

Alzheimer's symptom #1: Memory lapses

1. Does the person ask repetitive questions or retell stories within minutes of the first mention?
2. Does she forget the names of recent acquaintances or younger family members, such as grandchildren?
3. Are memory lapses growing progressively worse (such as affecting information that was previously very well known)?
4. Are they happening more frequently (several times a day or within short periods of time)?
5. Is this forgetfulness unusual for the person (such as sudden memory lapses in someone who prided herself on never needing grocery lists or an address book)?

Alzheimer's symptom #2: Confusion over words

1. Does the person have difficulty finding the "right" word when she's speaking?
2. Does she forget or substitute words for everyday things (such as "the cooking thingamajig" for pot or "hair fixer" for comb)?
3. Of course it's normal for anyone to occasionally "blank" on a word, especially words not often used. But it's considered a red flag for Alzheimer's if this happens with growing frequency and if the needed words are simple or commonplace ones.

Alzheimer's symptom #3: Marked changes in mood or personality

1. Is the person who's usually assertive more subdued (or vice versa)? 2 Has the person who's reserved become less inhibited (or vice versa)?
2. Does she withdraw, even from family and friends, perhaps in response to problems with memory or communication?
3. Has she developed mood swings, anxiety, or frustration, especially in connection with embarrassing memory lapses or noticeable communication problems?
4. Has she developed uncharacteristic fears of new or unknown environments or situations, or developed a distrust of others, whether strangers or familiar people?
5. Do you see signs of depression (including changes in sleep, appetite, mood)?

Alzheimer's symptom #4: Trouble with abstract thinking

1. How well does the person handle relatively simple mathematical tasks, such as balancing a checkbook?
2. Is she having trouble paying bills or keeping finances in order, tasks she previously had no problem completing?
3. Does she have trouble following along with a discussion, understanding an explanation, or following instructions?

Alzheimer's symptom #5: Difficulty completing familiar activities

1. Has the person begun to have trouble preparing meals?
2. Is she less engaged in a hobby that once absorbed her (bridge, painting, crossword puzzles)?
3. Does she stop in the middle of a project, such as baking or making a repair, and fail to complete it?
4. Has she stopped using a particular talent or skill that once gave her pleasure (sewing, singing, playing the piano)?
5. Activities with various different steps, however routine and familiar, can become difficult to complete for a person with Alzheimer's. Your parent might become distracted or lose track of where she is in the process, feeling confused. Or she might just lose interest altogether and leave a project unfinished.

Alzheimer's symptom #6: Disorientation

1. Has the person begun to be disoriented in new or unfamiliar environments (such as a hospital or airport), 2. asking where she is, how she got there, or how to get back to a place she recognizes?
2. Has she become disoriented in an environment she knows well?
3. Does she wander off and get lost in public (or get lost when driving or after parking)?
4. Does she lose track of the time, day, month, or year? For example, after being reminded about a future doctor's appointment over the phone, she may start getting ready for the appointment right away. Or she may have trouble keeping appointments and remembering other events or commitments.

Alzheimer's symptom #7: Misplacing items

1. Does the person "lose" items often?
2. Do they turn up in unusual places (such as finding a wallet in the freezer)?

Alzheimer's symptom #8: Poor or impaired judgment

1. Has the person recently made questionable decisions about money management?
2. Has she made odd choices regarding self-care (such as dressing inappropriately for the weather or neglecting to bathe)?
3. Is it hard for her to plan ahead (such as figuring out what groceries are needed or where to spend a holiday)?

As you can see, these are not symptoms conducive to safe shooting. With the apparent tremendous increase in the incidence of Alzheimer's and the preponderance of older shooters in some disciplines it might be a good thing for us to cast a more critical eye on some of our more "eccentric" fellow shooters.

No comments: