PART 1.          Forgetfulness 

“Her name is on the tip of my tongue; I must be losing my mind!”  

With recent public awareness of Dementia, we have the tendency to start analyzing our own actions.  Most of us know someone who has been diagnosed with some form of Dementia and we see how it affects not only the individual’s life but those around them.  It is scary, but forgetfulness is not always what you think.  The mind blanking out occasionally (loving referred to as a “senior moment”) may be a sign you need a break.  Changes in our lives such as Menopause, medications, traumatic events, nutrition, lack of sleep, depression and anxiety, can all cause forgetfulness…not dementia at all. 

Forgetfulness is the first sign something may be wrong but know what is normal and what isn’t when you can’t remember something, or when you do something that is out of character for you.  Most people in the early stage of dementia do realize something is “not right” and tend to hide symptoms.  

What is normal?

  • Making a bad decision once in awhile
  • Absentmindedness/not paying attention due to distractions (our electronic devices, kids, etc.)
  • Forgetting what day it is, but remembering a short time later
  • Missing a monthly payment
  • Misplacing things from time to time, but finding them eventually
  • Sometimes forgetting which word to use or forgetting a person’s name

What is not normal?

  • Making poor decisions a lot of the time (not dressing appropriately for the weather, putting yourself in a dangerous situation, etc.)
  • Difficulty with normal everyday tasks
  • Having trouble with conversations-not able to find words or using inappropriate words in conversations often
  • Misplacing things often and not being able to find them
  • Problems with money or taking care of monthly bills
  • Personality changes or disorientation (driving/walking to places you have been to many times and not remembering how to get there or back home, etc.)
  • Mood swings and anxiety

With normal non-disease forgetfulness don’t worry.  Get more rest, limit distractions, cut down on brain stimulation (computers/cell phones, etc.) address medication changes with your physician or take a little more “me time”.

Before you get a clinical diagnosis, make sure you get your legal affairs in order:

If not normal forgetfulness, get help! 

  • Living Will/Health Care Directive
  • Last Will & Testament
  • Power of Attorneys – Durable Power of Attorney remains valid even if you become incapacitated.  Ordinary Power of Attorney becomes invalid if you become incapacitated.
    • Medical Power of Attorney
    • Financial Power of Attorney

Note: I am not giving you legal advice, this must be left to an Attorney.

Consult with an Attorney on your particular situation.  Once anyone gets a clinical diagnosis of Cognitive Impairment (Dementia, Traumatic Brain Injury, etc.) it may be harder or considered invalid in some cases to make any legal decisions like signing contracts, assigning a Power of Attorney, etc.   An Attorney, especially an Elder Law Attorney can help make sure your wishes are taken care of.

Now…make an appointment with your doctor.  They will advise you and/or make a referral to a neurologist if necessary.  A neurologist is the best specialist to help you in a journey of Cognitive Impairment if this is the outcome.   

Once you have discovered what is really going on, talk with family.  By this time, you should already have your legal affairs in order; it’s time to plan.  You have many years ahead of you and you want to make the most of them.  Regardless of any diagnosis, planning with your family allows you and your loved ones the room to breathe. 

Take the Brain Health Quiz below.  The answers are below but no cheating!

1.The kids and grandkids show up for their regular weekly Sunday dinner — and you completely forgot they were coming.

  • Warning may be age related memory loss
  • Normal aging

2.You want to ask your neighbor about his daughter, who has just finished her freshman year of college. But you can’t remember her name — until later.

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal aging

3.You sometimes look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself. It’s the strangest thing.

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

4.You always miss the turn to get to the grandkids’ regular soccer field.

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

5.You find your glasses in the freezer, your watch in the flowerpot or other objects in strange places.

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

6.You’ve always known where every penny was, but now your bills are a complete mess.

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

7.You made a doctor’s appointment for a checkup months ago but completely forgot it – they even charged you $50 for no-show. 

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

8.Your spouse tells you that you ask the same questions repeatedly. 

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

9.Your mother recently passed away after a long illness. Not only are you sleeping terribly, you’re also having trouble remembering everything, from meetings with lawyers to where you put her papers.

  • Warning sign of early dementia
  • Normal age-related memory loss

10.Your daughter comments that you haven’t been remembering things that her children tell you, and she’s not sure if you’re not listening or need your ears checked.

  • Sign of Alzheimer’
  • Normal age-related memory loss

Answers

  1.          Warning
  2.          Normal
  3.          Warning
  4.          Normal
  5.          Warning
  6.          Warning
  7.          Normal
  8.          Warning
  9.          Normal
  10.  Warning