Tony Bennet has arguably been one of those “one in a million” kind of musical talents, but sadly he now also is one of more than five million. Mr. Bennett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that has robbed more than five million people in America of their abilities to understand or participate in the day to day activities that we call living.
Mr. Bennett was diagnosed four years ago at age 90 as his family began to notice differences in his behavior, his speech and in how he related to friends and business associates. Would you know if a loved one in your orbit was developing Alzheimer’s disease? Here is what to look for, because early detection can mean better accommodation of the patient by protecting them from accidents of daily living.
If you notice anything in your older loved one (older means most typically above 65 years of age, but there are early onset cases) that shows they are not interacting as they used to, talk to their family doctor:
- Difficulty processing information or content becomes difficult, and it is because the Alzheimer’s brain does not make memories as well or perhaps not at all in advanced cases.
- Facial changes or changes in facial recognition may give them a blank, uncomprehending demeanor or they may not as readily recognize when someone is joking…they may come to not recognize a friend at all.
- Difficulty concentrating or finishing tasks reflects their inability to cognitively keep up as they used to with reading, games, music and activities that used to delight them.
- Inability to multi-task, because their cognitive capacity becomes overwhelmed with more than one focus, and ultimately even single tasks become too much.
- Disorientation with both time and place may make them more anxious with familiar places or events, and unfamiliar places like restaurants or venues outside home can be absolutely overwhelming.
- Difficulty with word finding can make conversation increasingly difficult for the Alzheimer’s patient to understand what is said to them, and it ultimately may lead to withdrawal into silence.
But please don’t be alarmed at every instance of a memory lapse, because we all have lapses…but we typically remember the elusive name or date if given time. There is presently no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are almost 1,300 clinical trials into therapies in the United States alone, so there is hope. And staying healthy is the best way to avoid Alzheimer’s: mental and physical exercise, low carb diet, low fat intake and don’t smoke.
Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.