"Go start the car, honey."
As we age, we begin to forget things. My proudest attribute, was my near photographic memory. Notice, I said, was. I am beginning to forget things. Drives me nuts; simple words, minutia, things I used to pride myself in knowing. If you remember, fun for me growing up was reading encyclopedias and medical books. I worry that I am in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's Disease. So, I decided to turn to an expert. He is a neuropsychologist; specializes in traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's, stroke, blah, blah, blah.
Dr. T. Ph.D., ABN,FACPN, I'd like to ask you a few questions.
Q - In terms we can understand, what is Alzheimer's Disease?
A - A disease of the brain that results in accumulating or progressive death of brain cells.
Q - What is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?
A - There are many diseases of the brain that result in progressive cell death - all of those are classified as a form of dementia. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia.
Q - Are they treated the same way?
A - Other than a few reversible causes of dementia (i.e. meds, depression, thyroid, etc.), there are no effective treatments that reverse the dementing process.Some significant progress has been made in the treatment of Alzheimer's, but Alzheimer's remains a progressive, virtually untreatable form of dementia.
Q - Well that makes me feel a whole lot better. What percentage of the population will get Alzheimer's?
A - On average, there is a 15 - 20% chance of elderly developing Alzheimer's in their lifetime. This risk of Alzheimer's increases with age and certain genetic biomarkers, for example, there is almost a 50% chance of Alzheimer's in patients over age 80. "Christ, let me go look it up on my Power Point presentation."
Q - zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz He can't find his memory stick. Hah. It's all right dear. I'll put you in a good home. That is what he always tells me. Personally, I don't care if I get dementia at 80 (though I'm sure I will if I make it that far). I do care if I get it now. What is the earliest documented case of Alzheimer's?
A - Cases in patients as young as 20 that are undocumented with no confirmation by autopsy.
Q - What are the earliest signs to look for?
A - In Alzheimer's, it's memory loss.
Q - What kind? Like punctuation, words, names? Oh, God.
A - Here is an example. Alzheimer's patients forget whole experiences instead of not being able to recall specific details.
Q - Do you think I am showing signs of Alzheimer's?
A - You show normal age related forgetfulness which is different from Alzheimer's. (I didn't tell him I momentarily forgot how to recharge my camera battery the other day). If you forget parts of certain experiences or conversations and you know you forgot - you are probably okay. If you don't remember and don't acknowledge you've forgotten, that is probably a concern.
Well, that's all I want to know. It's all a bloody crap shoot. If you have a question, I'd be glad to ask Dr. T for you. Meanwhile, it's been nice knowin' ya.