Frequency as a tool to discern Signs & Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease was discussed in a seminar on August 23 at Hillsville First United Methodist Church. Director of Sales and Marketing John Mathis served as the presenter for the talk. The talk was one in a series sponsored by Commonwealth Senior Living.
“Always look at frequency. (Especially) When it looks at something normal that’s not normal. If it becomes more frequent then you can be aware then it’s a problem,” Mathis said. “Watching a person’s mannerisms when they forget things is another great thing. If you see in their face they are worried, they’ve already started to recognize the frequency and it’s a tell tale sign to get some help and maybe see a doctor.” He said early on, pride can cause victims to cover up habitual things which easily get by.
The presence of a genetic predisposition of Dementia (someone in the family previously diagnosed) can cause fear-based determinations. Memory loss, for instance, is a big clue but it is also important to judge this in the context of things are out of pattern for an individual, not just one time of forgetting a name or to take medication.
“It’s always the spouse who will notice (symptoms) before the person,” said Mathis. “A person will start to notice but they usually won’t admit it right up front. There’s been only a couple cases I’ve seen where an individual realized something is wrong and takes drastic steps to prepare. Huge leaps ahead of everyone else. That’s a really brave thing to do. Most everyone gets scared and withdraws. That’s where spouses can really help.”
He pointed out that Dementia is not a specific disease. It is an overall term describing a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills which reduces a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Vascular Dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. There are many other conditions which can cause symptoms of Dementia. Some are reversible.
“I speak to about 25 individuals a month – families going through a process, and that’s new. This is not the same folks I spoke to the last month. Twenty-five new families a month. About half those are dealing with Dementia symptoms,” Mathis said. “Given a year, that puts me at around 100 conversations with individual families about Dementia. I’m not an expert. I’ve only been in the field for a year. I am a licensed Dementia practitioner.”
He said medical practitioners are getting better at diagnosing the diseases and at research for cures. Mathis said one area not figured out was cause cases, or why for instance, are memory time lines missing in one person and not in another. Why some victims are “wanderers,” violent, confused and why some are just forgetful and they stay in that stage, never moving past that.
“The point of this conversation I’m having (with these regular talks) is to get more education around the subject,” said Mathis. “This is so they can be more educated on helping others. With Dementia, everybody is affected differently by it. They are all on different ends of the spectrum and need individual, customized training. That’s what makes it so hard. Dementia in itself is where two or more areas mentally get affected, whether it be language, judgment, memory, spacial awareness or visual abilities.”
He said of diagnosed Dementia cases, eighty percent are Alzheimer’s with some 5.4 million people diagnosed with it, 5.2 million over the age of 65, and the youngest victim being 28 years old. It is estimated to rise to 16 million by 2050 with two-thirds of those diagnosed being women. Those over 85 stand a 50 percent rate of getting Alzheimer’s.
Decreasing poor judgment and confusion of time and place are important clues, especially wandering. For instance, going for the mail but not making a good decision on when to step into the road to cross and get the mail. He said this is a point for conversation and controls to be put in place. Other indicators can be depression and withdrawing from work, from regular activities, mood changes and personality changes.
“One thing to think about is what is normal. A simple technology issue (for example). That’s something unless it’s frequent, and its something they used to know and now they don’t know. If it’s something new, that’s different,” Mathis said. “When pride comes into play, meaning they are trying to cover something up, it could be something else. It’s really troubleshooting all the time. Are they forgetting something or is it something simple? The best thing to do in all these situations is conversations. Even when they are in the extreme end of the spectrum it’s still good to have a conversation with them. We’re not fully aware of how aware they are yet. It’s still good to let them know a change is happening.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave