You may find yourself asking these questions: Why did I go into the kitchen? Where did I leave my keys? Did I schedule that dentist appointment? The feelings associated with these thoughts, while fleeting, can be troubling. As we age, we begin to think that these “senior moments” mean something more than just temporary forgetfulness and that dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is on the horizon. 

Take a deep breath. Momentary forgetfulness does not necessarily mean that you are developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In fact, it is completely normal to have occasional memory loss as we get older, including mild confusion, misplacing items and even making a bad decision once in a while.

But what if you or your loved one is experiencing extreme bouts of confusion that are affecting personality and decision-making abilities? Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz recently wrote about “brain-draining health conditions” that look like Alzheimer’s but are in fact treatable and at times even reversible. Here are a few examples:

• Vitamin deficiencies

• Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)*

• Depression 

• Urinary tract infections

• Underactive thyroid

• Reaction to certain medications

*NPH is caused by an increase in fluids in the brain

Treating the above conditions can usually allow individuals to revert back to their previous cognitive clarity. However, if symptoms still persist after each of these are addressed, how do you know if your cognitive changes are simply age-related or something more serious?

The Alzheimer’s Association has boiled down the warning signs to 10 signs and symptoms for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease: 

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life

2. Challenges in planning and solving problems

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

4. Confusion with time or place

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

8. Decreased or poor judgment

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities

10. Changes in mood and personality

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, please don’t ignore them. As with most diseases, the earlier it’s detected the better, and these warning signs can help you realize that you should seek care from your physician. While doctors have yet to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, there are a number of options and treatments that may help with the symptoms and challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the event that you or a loved one are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there are resources available both locally and nationally. The Alzheimer’s Association, a national organization with a local chapter here in Phoenix, is an excellent resource for individuals and their families. This organization provides information, advice, support and educational programs, as well as advocates for Alzheimer’s research, prevention and care initiatives. We are also fortunate locally to house the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, which is committed to ending Alzheimer’s before another generation is lost. 

Forgetting where you put your glasses or the name of the person you met just five minutes ago can be scary. But knowing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease will give you a head start toward diagnosis, or will provide you with the peace of mind that you’re just having a senior moment.

Bob Roth is managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions. Aging Today is a new monthly column. Visit their website

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