Dr. Shirley Newell – Alzheimer’s Early Warning Signs

Aegis Living, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shirley Newell, a thought leader in the assisted-living industry, discusses the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. As Dr. Newell explains, dementia is more than just forgetting where you left your keys.

“One of the things we think about is, “Oh, someone with Alzheimer’s will start losing their memory,” and yes, that’s true. They’ll start forgetting words or names, but we all do that. They may lose their keys, but there are some more dominant or more significant things that can occur with dementia. Even before memory loss, there’s a slowing, a general slowing, that researchers can pick up. Slower gait, shorter steps, decreased handgrip, inability to get up from a chair and go quickly. Those are things that can be measured and are somewhat predictive.

Additionally, in terms of behavioral signs and symptoms of dementia, it’s not just the simple things like word loss or forgetting names, but things like getting lost when someone’s out or inability to handle finances, or, more importantly, loss of ability to maintain one’s appearance. Those are less subtle signs but ones that can be overlooked by family members who may be so accustomed to seeing the person that they don’t see the gradual transition. Often times, it’s people who see people less often who will notice the sudden change.

I think it’s important to, if possible, pick up on early signs and symptoms so you can have discussions when the person is still cognitively intact and coherent enough to want to manage the problem. If you wait too long, then it becomes an issue of the person may be resistant to care or incapable of making critical decisions but not allowing you to help, any kind of productive intervention.”

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