Monday, June 29, 2009

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

In the past posts I have reviewed some of the most common symptoms and warning signs of Alzheimer's. This is the last in series of warning signs, but it is important to understand that each individual is different. Each person challenged with dementia in any of its forms will not necessarily have all of the symptoms, nor will they progress in each symptom at the same rate as someone else with the same problems. The warning signs are just that, a warning that something might be wrong. If you or one of your circle of concern have any of the symptoms it is a call to take action. Some of the conditions described previously can put the impaired person in deadly danger, not from Alzheimer's but from the effects of the disease. In the Phoenix area, where I live, if an impaired person wanders outside during the summer, they might not live long enough to get help. There are many other situations, like heat in the summer or cold in the winter, that might occur.

The last of the 10 Warning Signs is one of the most difficult to detect, that is changes in mood and or personality. This issue is much more than being irritated at a change in schedule or routine, it is a complex change in the way the person interacts with others. One of the most difficult changes to deal with from a care giver standpoint is paranoia. The Alzheimer's sufferer may misplace common objects and immediately jump to the conclusion that they have been stolen. Since they are having difficulty managing their finances, they may become fearful that someone, even a loved one, is stealing their money. This obsession can go so far that they will start putting money in odd places for safekeeping and then forget where it was located.

As an attorney, I have been regularly called to interview a prospective client who is certain that her money is being stolen. Unfortunately, this is sometimes true, financial exploitation does occur, but more frequently the money or savings are intact and the person is marginally demented.

The personality changes can cause great embarrassment and discomfort to those associated with the impaired person. They may have outbursts of anger for apparently no reason. They may be found hiding in a corner afraid to move. They may call the police regularly to report intruders.

All of these symptoms are just that, symptoms. Some of them may be confused with the typical age-related issues. But if the change becomes regular and repetitive, there may be a problem.

Particularly in the legal and financial areas, it is best to get your finances in order with proper wills and trusts before the impairment becomes too great.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 9

We may all get tired of our work obligations, family responsibilities and sometimes, social interactions. People who are challenged by dementia or Alzheimer's may appear to distance themselves from work, family and social situations, but the motivation is vastly different than mere weariness. Alzheimer's interferes in an individual's ability to interact in a comfortable way with others and with normal interests and activities. For example, if a person has spent his or her whole life following a sport, like football or baseball, and starts to lose interest and no longer seems to care about team standings, this might be an indication that something is seriously wrong.

In the early stages of Alzheimer's, family members may become upset over the changes that occur in their loved one, misinterpreting the changes as a rejection.

In one case, it became evident that my friend could not distinguish between his grandchildren and their friends. His actions towards the grandchildren were entirely socially appropriate, but because he could no longer remember exactly who he was dealing with, his actions towards their friends were inappropriate and sometimes, embarrassing because they were treated as if they were family members.

The social issues involved in Alzheimer's are some of the most difficult for family members. Going out to dinner with the sufferer may become a trial. It may become apparent that the person can no longer function at church or in a social context.

Monday, June 8, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 8

One of the most tragic changes experienced by those who are challenged by Alzheimer's is a dramatic decrease in their ability to make decisions or to use good judgment. Almost everyone makes a bad choice or decision once and a while, but those who are impaired by Alzheimer's are particularly susceptible to outside influence. Sometimes the person will listen to third parties like salesmen or con artists and yet, at the same time, worry that anything said by a member of the family is suspect. This problem can go so far that the con artists will actually use the person's concern about family members stealing from them to take their money.

I have seen Alzheimer's sufferers fail to pay legitimate bills but at the same time pay every magazine subscription offer that comes to them in the mail. Some of those people I have known were paying to dozens of by-the-mail charities, without knowing where or to whom their money was going.

Another related warning sign is a marked decrease in grooming or personal hygiene, especially from a person who has previously been concerned about appearances. Many times sufferers will wear clothes that do not match at all or even go out in public in their pajamas or night clothes. One woman I knew would occasionally forget to get completely dressed at all and show up in her slip. However, if the person's condition gets to this level of dysfunction, some of the other signs will be dramatically worse.

This decline in judgment is a major reason for directing attention to financial affairs before a person declines to the point that such a consideration requires court intervention. Please consider calling me at Jackson White, if you feel this is a problem with yourself or a loved one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's -- Sign No. 7

Are you finding books in the washer and dirty dishes in the closet? If so, you may need to be concerned about Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. One of the most bothersome of the many symptoms of the condition is the propensity to misplace everyday objects. This isn't the situation where you put your glasses down on a table and forget where they are, this is more challenging. Important papers or bills may turn up missing and be found stuffed in dirty clothes or under furniture. The problem can even be life threatening when food is left out to spoil.

In one situation, we found months worth of fast food meals rotting in the refrigerator. Not only is there a problem with locating objects, the person who is challenged will often be convinced that someone has stolen the missing item. Showing the Alzheimer's person that the object is not really stolen, but merely misplaced, does not convince them that the item was not stolen and is still missing. These confrontations can become very serious, even violent, some people suffering from Alzheimer's have been known to call the police to report property stolen.

The other side of misplacing items, if storing things that need to be thrown away. It is hard to distinguish this trait from abnormal hording, but if a person has not kept every scrap of paper during his or her life and suddenly begins accumulating piles and piles of junk, there may be a reason to become concerned.

If you have a friend or relative who is showing signs of Alzheimer's it is important the they get medical attention. It is equally important that they take care of any estate matters before the condition progresses to the point they can no longer function.