Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 6

Everyone struggles to remember a name or recall a precise word, but those with Alzheimer's have more difficulty than remembering single words or names. One classic early symptom of Alzheimer's is repeating the same story or comment again and again without realizing the repetition. Although this may be common, repetition is not universal. The difficulty experienced by those with Alzheimer's is not a simple as a lapse of memory.

People suffering from dementia, like Alzheimer's may lose the ability to put words together in a logical sequence. They may stop talking in the middle of a sentence or start over again, generally without being aware that there is a problem. This problem may be worse if the person also suffers from hearing loss or other similar disability. In my experience, it appears that the person is not paying attention and just drifts off into a different world.

Those giving care to a person with Alzheimer's must be aware that the lack of attention is not intentional, it is part of the condition.

Another problem for people suffering from Alzheimer's is misusing a word or substituting an inappropriate word. The substituted words are not variations of the missing word, but totally unrelated such as using a description for the word. The problem may also extend to a condition like Aphasia, blocking and not being able to complete either a word or a sentence.

Verbal confusion can also be caused by many other medical problems, and all of the warning signs are intended to be considered together.

If a friend or a loved one begins showing signs of memory or word difficulties, it is good idea to make sure their affairs are in order and that they have provided for medical directives before their mental condition deteriorates to the point that they can no longer function.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 5

Many older people experience changes in their vision as they age. What is more worrisome is when these changes in vision are connected with the onset of Alzheimer's. Typical vision changes include cataracts, reduced sensitivity to light, decreased visual acuity, and shortsightedness. Although these symptoms do not relate to dementia, they should still be addressed by proper eye care and regular check ups.

The visual problems related to Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia are much more complex and can be more disturbing to the sufferer. People can develop difficulty in reading and comprehending what they are reading, judging distances and determining color or contrast.

Judging distances can cause falls and car accidents. This problem can also compound existing loss of balance due to other causes. Color perception may result in inappropriate choices of clothes but may also cause other related problems.

One of the most disturbing symptoms is an inability to discriminate between an image in a mirror and reality. The person may think that the image in the mirror is another person and even carry on a conversation. In extreme cases, with people I have known, all of the mirrors had to be taken down or covered because the person became fearful of the images in the mirrors.

Alzheimer's is a sad condition. But addressing the issues with a positive attitude helps considerably to ameliorate the effects.

Monday, May 18, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 4

Almost everyone has been lost at some time or another, either as a child or when in a new or unfamiliar location. People with Alzheimer's may get lost in their own home. Although a person may be temporarily confused, typically, the correct information is sorted out. A person with Alzheimer's can forget where they are and how they got there.

Trouble with time and space is often one of the most alarming conditions to those having responsibility for those with Alzheimer's. In an area like Phoenix, Arizona it can be life threatening to walk outside in the summer and forget where you are. One of my friends became so disoriented on his way home from Church that he ended up in a parking lot in Tucson, almost three hours away from his home. Persistent disorientation as to time or place is a cause for concern.

Another potentially fatal issue is that of medication. It is natural to be unable to remember if you took a certain pill or not, from time to time. However, with Alzheimer's a person may take several pills a day or fail to take any at all.

It is significant that care centers focus on physical security and medications. These are two of the most disturbing attributes of the condition. If someone you know has consistent trouble with time or place, they need help immediately.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 3

Before becoming concerned about mental or cognitive deterioration, it is important to know that although the condition we call Alzheimer's is commonly referred to as a "disease" there is no conclusive proof that it is a disease or that there will ever be a "cure." The changes in brain structures attributed to Alzheimer's are found in "normally" aging brains. What we call Alzheimer's is part of a general condition known as dementia. To quote the Alzheimer's Association:

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. For more information about other causes of dementia..."

Warning Sign No. 3

Challenges in completing every day activities at home, work or leisure.

It is normal for a person to have difficulty with a new piece of electronic equipment, such as a DVD player or a cell phone. It is also normal to forget to pay a bill now and then or to take out the garbage. But when this difficulty begins to extend to activities a person would normally complete without a problem, there is reason for concern.

In my experience, the most alarming problems occur with maintaining the home heating/cooling systems and with cooking. People who were becoming more and more impaired have turned off the air conditioning in Phoenix, having the inside temperature go to almost 100 degrees. Others have left food cooking on the stove until the pan melted from the heat. In other cases, stoves and microwaves have been burned, fortunately without destroying the rest of the house. Before the impairment becomes a threat to health and safety, it is important to notice significant, but not so severe changes.

If a person begins to forget which channel has their favorite TV show, or even how to work the remote, or if a person can no longer wash their clothes or run the dishwasher, there is a need for medical evaluation. One symptom of decreased ability can be observed when the person is taken to a new location, a restaurant or store, for example. If the person cannot figure out which way to go or what to do, there may be a problem.

The initial stages of dementia or Alzheimer's in particular are especially difficult to detect. Many people will attempt to hide their inability to perform tasks by hiding the evidence. In one case, we found that a lady had put all of the left over food from restaurants, in the refrigerator and forgotten they were there. The fridge was full of have eaten and spoiled food. This issue can be very serious if the person lives alone and does not have regular outside contact with people coming into their home.

At this stage of Alzheimer's the person may still talk and react in a normal fashion. It is important that they receive competent medical help and also financial and legal counseling. Decisions need to be made before the person is completely impaired.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 2

In deciding whether or not you or some one else is having difficulties that you suspect may involve memory or cognition, it is important to distinguish between the "normal" effects of aging and those associated with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. It is normal for people to lose some abilities with age. Some of the areas that are most impacted include diminished eyesight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Some changes in the brain are also evident. However, if the changes in brain function are noticeably dramatic and impinge on the ability of a person to function in a normal daily setting, there may be some reason for concern.

Warning Sign No. 2

A decrease in cognitive ability or function, particularly with planning and numbers.

In my experience, one of the earliest indications of impairment seems to be a decrease in the ability to balance a checkbook or follow a schedule. Even before memory issues become evident, a person who has traditionally managed their financial affairs, periodic bills remain unpaid and others get paid more than necessary. Bank accounts may become overdrawn and checks and payments may remain in a pile rather than being processed. An individual who has been managing their finances throughout their life, may become defensive and secretive about their money. Any inquiries may be viewed as a threat. A good cook may not be able to follow a recipe.

These changes may occur over years or within a period of months. The more rapid the change, the greater the need to address the problem.

Although, it is natural to think of medical providers in these situations. It is also necessary to seek adequate legal advice. Financial planning may become of great importance.

Monday, May 4, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 1

The Alzheimer's Association has ten warning signs of cognitive impairment which they say "may be a symptom of Alzheimer's, a fatal brain disease." I am not convinced that "Alzheimer's" is a real disease, but that will be the subject of other posts. Before getting upset with this or any other information you may have heard about the so-called "Alzheimer's Disease" I suggest you read the The Myth of Alzheimer's: what you aren't being told about today's most dreaded disease.

Notwithstanding the status of Alzheimer's as a disease or not, memory impairment is a serious problem with the growing population of elderly people in America. As an attorney I have had a fairly large share of elderly clients and all of the ten warning signs are conditions that I have personally experienced either with clients or with others in my circle of acquaintances and friends.

Warning Sign Number 1:

1. Changes in memory ability that becomes disruptive of normal daily life.

Although this is symptom is assumed to be the classic precursor of Alzheimer's or dementia in general, in practical real life situations, the changes in memory can be so subtle that the person can compensate without drawing attention to the fact that their memory is impaired. On the other hand, a sudden decrease in memory ability may be attributed to something entirely separate and distinct from Alzheimer's or dementia. Any sudden change in memory should be addressed immediately by a physician. For example, vascular dementia is caused by a decrease in the blood supply to the brain and not by any of the aging processes attributed to Alzheimer's. Generally, although each individual is different, someone with a memory impairment will not suddenly remember the lost memory at a later time.

It is a good idea if there is a noticeable memory impairment, not just forgetting someones name or a meeting, but consistent inability to remember information, it would be a good time to review the individuals physical condition and check for other symptoms of impairment.

Next time: Warning Sign No. 2

Friday, May 1, 2009

What happens to minor children if the parents die without a will?

In 1940 Arizona enacted the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act. The Act was amended and re-written effective January 1, 1995. Many other states have enacted similar legislation. The intent of this act was to provide for the distribution of the estate of both spouses in the event they died at the same time. Arizona statutes further define a simultaneous death as one where the surviving party died before 120 hours from the death of the first party.

If neither spouse survives, their joint estate passes to their descendants by representation. The term "by representation" means that each of the children who survive their parents inherit a percentage of the estate. In the unlikely event that a child dies, leaving descendants, then the child's children (grandchildren of the decedents) inherit the child's share. Unfortunately, the statutes do not get simpler, but more complicated especially with problems like after-born heirs.

Most of this complication and the problems caused can be avoided by having a will.

The real issue, with children under the age of 18, is their care and custody. Once again, a will can solve most of the problems. In the absence of a will, Arizona looks to the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act, enacted in 1982. A guardian for minor children can be named in a will. If there is no will the law provides that the Court shall appoint as guardian a person whose appointment would be in the best interests of the minor. Although the statutes provide for a priority for the Court's consideration, the statute is not mandatory.