Treatable Conditions that Mimic Dementia – AARP. I am so pleased that AARP published this article about false positives for Alzheimer’s disease. Because of the high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, we have all become very sensitive to any abnormal cognitive challenges in our lives. A few people have said to me, “I keep losing my keys. I forget where I place them. Do I have Alzheimer’s?” I’m not a medical professional but I have been trained by several in the profession. Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia, had this response to that type of question, and I paraphrase:
If you forget where you’ve put down your keys, you may not have dementia. If you forget what they are or what they’re used for, you could very well have dementia.
The attached AARP article provides possible reasons for cognitive abnormalities that are not Alzheimer’s disease: medication, urinary tract infection (UTI), diabetes, thyroid, and depression to name a few. That being the case, even if you forget what the car keys are for, you still may not have Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
In my attached article, Medications: harbinger of cognitive decline? I address just one of the causes for a false positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Please read that article, to be sure, but also read the attached piece by AARP. You deserve to have peace of mind by finding out if your symptoms, or those of a loved one, are reversible. And by all means, be bold enough to demand that your treating physician rule out all other possible conditions before putting you through the grueling neurological testing that many physicians prescribe as first steps, rather than the last resort when determining the cause of a patient’s cognitive decline.
I strongly encourage you to read the above article. Too often physicians with insufficient training on elder-health issues dismiss the early signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia as simply being age-related developments. Doing so presents the risk of missing the small window of opportunity in which to treat cognitive issues early on, rather than when they have fully taken up residence in a patient.
Sure, there’s nothing yet that prevents or cures the disease, but being able to manage the symptoms early on certainly adds to the quality of life that both the patient, and their loved ones, seek to experience.
For those of you who have taken on the role of advocating for your loved one: when you escort your loved one with early memory loss or confusion to the doctor’s office, do not back down when he/she concludes the symptoms are to be expected due to advancing age. NO! Those symptoms could very well be indicative of disease-related dementia, OR the symptoms could be caused by medication side-effects (blood pressure medication, seizure medication and the like) or other medical conditions, such as urinary tract infection (UTI.)
It’s all about advocacy. Do you go the easy route and take the doctor’s word for it, or do you push for worthwhile diagnostics to rule out any other serious or life-changing causes?
At a certain stage during the course of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, a person can exhibit exit-seeking behavior. It is believed that the person exhibiting this behavior is actually trying to get home, or back to a familiar place, or even seeking a feeling of comfort rather than simply trying to escape from their current location.
This “exiting” can take place just about anywhere, even at the person’s own home – resulting in a dangerous scenario where a wandering vulnerable person could easily fall into any number of horrific situations because of their inability to get back to the safety of their home (be it a personal residence or a long-term care facility.) Exiting behavior also takes place in public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls, movie theaters, airports, and yes, even airplanes at 35,000 feet above the ground. This latter scenario happened on a recent flight I took from Dulles International Airport (DC area) to Seattle International Airport (Seattle, Washington.)
Just a half hour into our five-plus hour flight, a female passenger of approximately 75 years of age became very agitated during our ascent and before the fasten seat belt sign was switched off, she climbed over the passengers in her row, carry-on in hand, screaming all the way to the back of the plane from Row 34. I was seated in Row 35. “Wow, she must really have to use the bathroom!” I thought. A flight attendant tried to get the passenger re-situated in her seat to no avail. Complicating matters was the fact that the passenger was from another geographical continent and not only did she not speak or understand English, it was determined that other passengers who had flown with her from that same continent (not any relation or connection to her) also could not understand a word that she said. In essence, she was speaking gibberish. That was the first sign to myself and the flight attendants, that a) this woman was flying alone; b) she was in severe distress; and c) she most likely had some sort of dementia and was trying to exit her environment. Not an easy task, nor one any of the United Airline employees were about to allow. Read the rest of this entry »