Caregivers of Older Adults

Is it ALZHEIMER’S or just Aging?

Posted on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 @ 10:47 AM

Is it Alzheimer's or just aging?Have you ever gotten up from what you were doing, walked into another room with a clear purpose of something you need to do or get from that room only to realize upon entering the room you can't remember why you are there? You stand in amazement that you have no clue what it was that made you get up and take the walk into the other room!  A younger person would laugh it off and probably not think twice about such an incident.  But, as we age, this situation can evoke much different emotions.  The mere thought of memory loss, or more specifically, ALZHEIMER’S strikes panic in every fiber of our being.  Abruptly we’re cast into a world of doubt and speculation – could it actually happen to me?  How will I know?

The Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) exam is a commonly used screening tool for evaluating memory loss or identifying cognitive problems in the elderly.  This test was developed by Saint Louis University geriatricians and helps identify mild cognitive problems in the elderly.  To learn more about this exam go to mmLearn.org where you can view a recorded webcast of Dr. David A. Smith, M.D., FAAFP, CMD, conducting the SLUMS examination and the Geriatric Depression Scale on three elderly participants.

Everyone’s memory gets worse with age, so it's important to know the difference between normal aging and signs of Alzheimer’s disease.  There definitely is a distinction between the two, experts say.  “Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging,” said Heather Snyder, senior associate director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, signs of Alzheimer’s disease may include:  “Difficulty completing tasks:  People with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty with everyday tasks, such as driving to the grocery store.  ‘You’ve gone to the same grocery store for 20 years, and suddenly you’re not quite sure how to get to that grocery store, or you’re not quite sure how to get home,’ Snyder said.  Those who are aging normally may sometimes need help with tasks, such as figuring out how to record a TV show.”

Understanding the importance of early treatment dementia tests that help identify the subtle symptoms of dementia allows individuals to seek medical intervention early.  This could mean a slower progression of the disease for you or your family member.  Early intervention may affect the disease process.  While internet sites, health journals, newspaper articles and television documentaries are filled with information on the latest research about the causes and treatment for this disease; it’s difficult to know which sources are the most reliable.

mmLearn.org provides free online training for caregivers of older adults and brings together presenters who are geriatricians, geriatric psychiatrists and others who specifically work with and treat older adults.  Other informative videos on various forms of dementia, depression in elders and caring for someone with dementia are also available on mmlearn.org.

Topics: Family Caregivers, Siblings and Aging Parents, Caregiver Stress, Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia