If you ask almost anyone over the age of 50 about their memory, they will likely admit that they suspect that their ability to learn and remember things is not as good as it was when they were much younger. As a quasi senior citizen myself, I have first-hand knowledge of this and can definitely relate and empathize. In most cases, it is so subtle and easy to overcome that it will generally not be a source of significant concern. So what if you cannot remember off the top of your head the name of the actor who played Luke in Star Wars, the name of the band that recorded the song Tuesday Afternoon or the name of that new restaurant your friend told you about last week during a casual conversation that was supposed to be really good. So what, if you occasionally forget where you left your keys or to pay a certain bill on time? Frankly, we all have these problems, regardless of age. You can still perform your job as well as you always did, can still do the Wednesday edition of the New York Time’s crossword puzzle as well as you used to, and can still go about all your other daily activities without any apparent noticeable problems. Nobody, but you, appears to notice. Of course these “senior moments” can be frustrating and will often times eat at you all day long until, mysteriously, the answer pops into your head. But, are such gaps harbingers of impending doom? For the overwhelming majority of people, the answer is no. Subtle declines in our ability to efficiently process information are a normal consequence of aging. It will likely be more noticeable to you, if you are someone who works at an intellectually demanding job and less noticeable for those people who do not. Regardless of the demands you place on your brain, there’s only so much information that can be stored and efficiently processed by your brain, regardless of who you are. It is only when such difficulties become more noticeable, not only to you, but others and/or start to truly become disruptive, that it may be worth considering having yourself checked out.
Of course, one of the biggest concerns/fears of the elderly is the possibility of contracting Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementing illness. Alzheimer’s disease is nothing to scoff at. It is an incurable neurological disease that, over time, progressively destroys key areas of the brain that make it possible for a person to think and carry on normal activities of daily living such as carrying on normal conversations, shopping, being able to navigate around familiar places without getting lost, dressing, bathing and even feeding oneself. In its latest stage, those with this disease find themselves entirely dependent on others for their care.
So what are some of the early signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? According to a posting on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website, here are their “10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s” disease.
- Memory Loss The Disrupts Daily Life
- Challenges in Planning or Solving Problems
- Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks at Home, at Work or at Leisure
- Confusion with Time or Place
- Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships
- New Problems with Words in Speaking or Writing
- Misplacing Things or Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps
- Decreased or Poor Judgment
- Withdrawal From Work or Social Activities
- Changes in Mood or Personality
If you or someone you know is experiencing some or all of these signs or symptoms, it might be a good idea to seek out profession help. There are medications to treat, not only the cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but also the mood and/or emotional problems that frequently occur in concert with this disease. It is, therefore, best to first consult your family physician or see a specialist, such as a neurologist or psychiatrist. As a next step, it might be a good idea to submit to neuropsychological testing. Even if no significant deficits in your ability to process information are revealed, the data can serve as a baseline in the event that you and/or your physician feel that you are experiencing a downward trend at some point in the future.
Alzheimer’s disease is also an area of very active research. At any given time, there are many Alzheimer’s Clinical Trials being conducted which attempt to help identify potentially more effective treatments for the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Two great sites on the web where you can instantly learn more about the nature of these trials and where they are being conducted can be found at ClinicalTrials.gov or CenterWatch.com.