(Editor’s Note: I recently came across an excellent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Action Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems, just released in paperback. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and leading Alzheimer’s expert, kindly helped us create a 2-part article series to share with SharpBrains readers advice on a very important question, “How can we help the public at large to distinguish Alzheimer’s Disease from normal aging — so that an interest in early identification doesn’t translate into unneeded worries?” What follows is an excerpt from the book, pages 3-8).
Jane, fifty-seven, managed a large sales force. She prided herself on being good at names, and introductions were easy for her—until last spring when she referred to Barbara as Betty at a meeting and had to correct herself. She started noticing that her memory wasn’t as dependable as it once was—she had to really try to remember names and dates. Her mother had developed Alzheimer’s in her late seventies, so Jane entertained a wide array of worries: Is this just aging? Is it because of menopause? Is it early Alzheimer’s? Did her coworkers or family notice her slips? Should she ask them? Should she see a doctor, and if so, which doctor? Would she really want to know if she was getting Alzheimer’s? Would she lose her job, health insurance, or friends if she did have Alzheimer’s?
As it turns out, Jane did not have Alzheimer’s. She consulted a doctor, who, in docspeak, told her that the passage of time (getting older) had taken a slight toll on her once-superquick memory. She was slowing down a little, and if she relaxed, the name or date or other bit of information she needed would come to her soon enough. She was still good at her job and home life. She had simply joined the ranks of the worried well.
Normal brain aging, beginning as early as the forties in some people, may include:
- Taking longer to learn or remember information
- Having difficulty paying attention or concentrating in the midst of distractions
- Forgetting such basics as an anniversary or the names of friends
- Needing more reminders or memory cues, such as prominent appointment calendars, reminder notes, a phone with a wellstocked speed dial
Although they may need some assistance, older people without a mental disorder retain their ability to do their errands, handle money, find their way to familiar areas, and behave appropriately.
How does this compare to a person with Alzheimer’s? When Alzheimer’s slows the brain’s machinery, people begin to lose their ability to Read the rest of this entry »