January is Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Alzheimer’s disease can be one of the scariest things we may have to face as we age. Know and recognize the symptoms; differentiate between the warnings of Alzheimer’s and the signs of normal aging.
What is Alzheimer ’s disease? It is the most common form of dementia. It’s a brain disorder that impacts your daily life through memory loss and cognitive changes. The Alzheimer’s Association currently estimates that one in ten people over the age of 65, and nearly one-third of those over 85, have Alzheimer’s.
While the primary risk factors of Alzheimer’s are age, family history and genetics, there are other risk factors that can pave the way for Alzheimer’s. Some things you can do to help prevent the disease are maintain a healthy diet, avoid high blood pressure, watch your weight, and avoid tobacco and excess alcohol. Also, try to stay socially connected and exercise your body as well as your mind. Early on-set Alzheimer’s affects people under the age of 65. It is rare and is mostly seen in patients with a family history of the disease.
Almost all of us over the age of 65 experience some form of forgetfulness. It is normal for age-related brain shrinkage to produce changes in processing speed, attention and short-term memory. Understanding the difference is very important.
Here are some differences between ‘normal change’ and possible early Alzheimer’s:
- Can’t find your keys versus routinely placing items in odd places, such as keys in the fridge or dishwasher.
- Searching for casual words and names versus forgetting names of family members and common objects, or substituting words with inappropriate ones.
- Briefly forget conversation details vs frequently forgetting entire conversations.
- Can’t find a recipe versus can’t follow the recipe directions.
- Making an occasional wrong turn versus getting lost in familiar places, not remembering how you got there or how to get home.
As of now there is no single definitive medical test for identifying Alzheimer’s. But seeking advice from your doctor is crucial if you’re experiencing anything out of the ordinary. Although Alzheimer’s can be a life-altering diagnosis for you and those around you, it does not mean that your life is over. Remember that not all memory loss indicates Alzheimer’s and there is help available for those struggling.
First Link Dementia Helpline 1-800-936-6033 and alzbc.org
A weekly feature for Lumby, Cherryville, and area seniors. For more information about any of the following please contact Colleen or Jenny at (250) 547-8866 Whitevalley Community Resource Centre Office (250) 547-8866. Funding support provided by Interior Health, the Province of British Columbia (Community Gaming), United Way Southern Interior and United Way Lower Mainland.