Have you ever been going somewhere and, for a moment, you forgot your destination? Have you ever misplaced an item or forgot an appointment, only to remember it when it was too late?
Most people, regardless of age, would have to answer “yes” to these questions. When these situations occur, you might begin to question if your brain is functioning normally or if something is wrong. In some cases — depending on your age and family history — you might even worry that you could be developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease usually progresses gradually and tends to develop over a period of several years. Therefore, it’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t happen overnight. Family members of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often say that they are unsure when the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease first began, since the changes are often subtle.
Our lives move at a fast pace, and we can be distracted by many demands on our attention. All of us, from time to time, experience memory loss and forgetfulness. It can be caused by many factors, including side effects from medication, illness, lack of sleep and stress. It’s common for people to develop ways to compensate for these symptoms and cue themselves, such as making lists and having designated places for items in the home.
It’s not uncommon for older adults to be concerned that when they misplace an item, they might be developing Alzheimer’s disease. We all misplace items from time to time. If we retrace our steps, we can usually find them. The difference for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is that they might put things in inappropriate places or hide items to keep them safe. Later, they might not be able to retrace their steps to find them.
A good resource for more information about the signs of Alzheimer’s disease is the Alzheimer’s Association’s Web site: www.alz.org.
By Michelle Kutner, CSW, MSW, CTRS
Good Samaritan Society Specialty Service Consultant