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Where are my keys?


“Honey, why are your keys in the freezer?” Initial gasp and heart-skip of fear – this is it, I’m losing it, I’ve got Alzheimer’s! Then I remember. Earlier, I had been at the grocery enjoying one of Starbucks iced green tea blah bitty blahs, when I decided I deserved some ice cream. Rocky Road. After all, I walked 2 miles this morning, and I was making my husband a home-cooked healthy dinner. Who doesn’t want to top off a great day with half a tub of Rocky Road? Yum. So, I’m driving home, and dang it, that tea was just too much. I gotta go! Oh yeah, I drank all that water on my walk. No wonder. Shoot. This is an emergency. I’m only one sneeze away from “Wet Clean-up -- Driver’s Seat”. I raced into the house, fumbling to get the door unlocked while hopping on one foot, shoved the Rocky Road into the freezer (I haven’t lost my priorities), and run upstairs to the bathroom just in the nick of time. Whew! Well, then I took a shower and got on with my day. So, it makes perfect sense that my keys are in the freezer by my beloved Rocky Road. More importantly, now that I think of it, what’s HE doing in the freezer? “Honey, what are you doing in the freezer?”


Sometimes our memory issues are normal signs of aging, or a busy lifestyle. And, sometimes they’re more serious. Are you worried about Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you love? You have good reason to be concerned. Every 65 seconds someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnosis provides a range of benefits for individuals who are diagnosed, as well as their loved ones.


Alzheimer’s. Dementia. What’s the difference? Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia, the most common type, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. Dementia is an umbrella term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. So, dementia is the overall condition, and Alzheimer’s is the type of dementia. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and more. Many times I’ve been working with a family and they will say something like, “My mom has dementia, but it’s NOT Alzheimer’s.” Their parent may have one of the other types of dementia that make up the roughly 30% of cases that aren’t Alzheimer’s, but, more often than not, they heard the doctor say dementia, and assumed that was something completely different.

As we know, doctors rarely have (or take) the time to make sure patients understand what they are talking about. So, if you have concerns about dementia, in particularly Alzheimer’s, spend some time on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website. It has a wealth of information and is the primary resource I’ve used for years in reviewing the top ten warning signs with families.


Ten Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s (www.alz.org)

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the early stage, is forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over, and increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's a typical age-related change?

Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's a typical age-related change?

Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.

People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What's a typical age-related change?

Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4. Confusion with time or place.

People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's a typical age-related change?

Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What's a typical age-related change?

Vision changes related to cataracts.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.

People with Alzheimer's may have 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 (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").

What's a typical age-related change?

Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.

A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's a typical age-related change?

Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them. (Hint: Freezer.)

8. Decreased or poor judgment.

People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's a typical age-related change?

Making a bad decision once in a while.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.

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 also may avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's a typical age-related change?

Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10. Changes in mood and personality.

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They 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

What's a typical age-related change?

Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.


If you or someone you love has any of the above warning signs, consult your doctor. Your medical professional is your primary resource for additional information and important next steps. And, have hope. Not all memory loss is cause for panic. The next time you can’t find your keys – retrace your steps. They might be hiding with the ice cream.



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