I am extremely worried about my 65 year old mother. She used to be quite energetic and alert, now she has become forgetful. She forgets to turn off the taps, forgets her boiling tea and at times cannot remember the name of her street. Yesterday she missed her appointment with the dentist. I am really nervous and wondering if it is a good idea for her to live alone. Please tell me, is it just old age or could it be something worse?
Dear Worried in Schwabing,
It is a good thing that you are seeking help, as often times people ignore warning signs until it is too late. I would advise you to schedule an appointment with your doctor. This is because your mother could be showing symptoms of Alzheimer's. According to statistics, one out of every 10 persons 65 years and older is a victim of Alzheimer's disease, although early-onset victims may be in their 40s and 50s. At the moment, 1.2 million people in Germany are affected by the disease; 70% women, 30% men. Studies indicate that 6.5 to 8.7 percent of the people over the age of 65 in Germany suffer from dementia. This translates to a total of 830,000 to 1.1 million. Two thirds of those suffering from dementia are Alzheimer's patients.
Alzheimer's is an irreversible degeneration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognition, personality, and other functions that eventually leads to death from complete brain failure. Here is a list of the most common signs of Alzheimer's:
Forgetting recently learned information or important dates or events; as well as asking for the same information over and over.
Challenges in solving problems
One could solve sudoku in a bit over the world record time; now they take much longer. One has difficulty concentrating and is unable to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. One has trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. If, for example one used to pick a child from school every Tuesday for a number of years, the person may have trouble driving to the school as he/she may not be sure about the way. Or, the person cannot remember the rules of playing monopoly or a game they were once good at.
Confusion with time or place
One may lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. At times they forget where they are or how they got there.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
One has difficulty reading, judging distance and determining colour or contrast. At times the person may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room without realizing that they are the person in the mirror.
Problems with words
People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. At times they may stop in the middle of a conversation and may have no idea how to continue. They repeat themselves and often struggle with vocabulary, often having problems finding the right word.
Misplacing things and inability to retrace steps
One who was in the habit of always keeping their keys in one place may start misplacing them or putting them in unusual places. One loses things and is unable to go back over their steps to find them again. At times they can even swear they put something somewhere, without realising that they actually did not.
Decreased or poor judgement
People suffering from Alzheimer's may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean, although they would never leave the house unkempt. They may use poor judgment when dealing with money, often giving large amount to telemarketers.
Withdrawal from work, social activities
A person may have loved going to work, going to the gym, swimming or playing golf. Now, he/she can hardly remember which club to use for which shot. He/she may avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
Mood swings and personality changes
A person suffering from Alzheimer's may be easily upset in social settings, whenever they are out of their comfort zone. One can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious.
Reader, we hope you are now better able to monitor your mother, to see if these symptoms are actually there. We wish you all the best. You may actually find out that it is just old age and that there is no need to worry. To be on the safer side though, take her to a physician, for a stitch in time saves nine.
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