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The holidays are a great time to assess your elderly loved ones for signs of Alzheimer’s

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The holiday season can be busy with travel and visits from family and friends who might not often see one another. It’s a perfect time to take a good look at your loved ones for signs of anything that might raise questions about a person’s physical and cognitive health.

Although some change in cognitive ability can occur with age, memory problems that impact daily living are not a part of normal aging. Recognizing the difference between normal aging and potentially more serious problems can help identify when it may be time to see a doctor.

“Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is an important step in getting appropriate treatment, care and support services,” said Stephanie Rohlfs-Young, Outreach Director for the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter.

Here, from the association, are the 10 warnings signs of Alzheimer’s:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life. One of the most common signs of is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides or family members for things they used to handle well.

What’s normal: Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems. Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s normal: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure. People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s normal: Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave, record a television show or work the DVD player.

4. Confusion with time or place: People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s normal: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. S me people may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room, not realizing they are the person in the mirror.

What’s normal: Vision changes related to cataracts.

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing. People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand clock”).

What’s normal: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places or lose things and be unable to find them. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing.

What’s normal: Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

8. Decreased or poor judgment. People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. They may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or cleanliness.

What’s normal: Making a bad decision once in a while.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities. A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What’s normal: Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10. Changes in mood and personality. The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What’s normal: Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Alzheimer’s patients may benefit from Qwirkle, other games

Qwirkle is a game, similar to dominoes, in which players match up shapes and colors.

It has proven beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients. It aids at a cognitive level, adds mobility and provides a social activity. That’s what got John and Holly Schmid interested.

The Schmids own Best Alzheimer’s Products, which offers games and activities for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Their website ( offers help and information for those with loved ones touched by these afflictions.

“Qwirkle was one of first things we got for a friend with Alzheimer’s to keep her busy and one of the first things we had when we opened the store,” John says. “It’s a neat game and can be used by people on many cognitive levels just by changing the rules or what you do with it.”

Since then the Schmids have added about 400 products for patients at all levels. Other popular items are the Busy Bee Lap Pad, which offers tactile and visual stimuli for patients in later stages; a talking photo album that lets you record 10 minutes of audio for each of 20 different pictures; and the Twiddle Muff, a hand warmer with a squeezable ball inside and activities attached outside that comes in animal shapes. More are on the way.

— McClatchy-Tribune News


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