Thursday night at the Maplewood Public Library, there was a program on Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The Alzheimer's Association, 9370 Olive Blvd, St Louis, MO, 63132, serves 38 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Kyle Armstrong, outreach coordinator, presented "Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters". The organization, www.alz.org/stl, provides a 24/7 helpline (1-800-272-3900), support groups, family and community education, respite care, advocacy, and resources. The organization does a "Walk to End Alzheimer's" and is always looking for volunteers to help the paid staff of thirty.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia (a significant decline in cognitive function). In the disease phase, brain proteins form amyloid "plaques", neurons die, and symptoms result. It is a progressive disease, which destroys brain cells and causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior, and is eventually fatal.
The signs of this disease are "1) memory changes that disrupt daily life; 2) challenges in planning or solving problems; 3) difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or 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 judgement; 9) withdrawal from work or social activities; and 10) changes in mood and personality with increasing displays of confusion, suspicion, fear, anxiety, and agitation".
Brain health comes from a healthy body and an active social life. Diabetes in mid-life can lead to AD decades later, there is a strong link between serious head injury and risk for dementia, and the risk for AD or vascular dementia is increased by damaged heart/blood vessels.
What if you know someone who has some of the 10 signs? Talk to the person about what you are seeing, get them to visit their doctor for a dementia evaluation, and get treatment as soon as possible. Finally, if your doctor is unable or unwilling to do the evaluation, Washington University has one of the leading Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers in the county, so give them a call.