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Memory loss, confusion and other symptoms ‘not just normal part of aging’

One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital offers the following 10 warning signs you and your loved ones should watch out for, according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  1. Memory loss that affects everyday life

  2. Difficulty in problem solving or planning

  3. Trouble completing familiar tasks

  4. Confusion with time or location

  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

  6. Trouble communicating via speech or on paper

  7. Misplacing things

  8. Having poor judgment

  9. Withdrawing from social or work activities

  10. Changes in mood or personality

“If you or a family member is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it might not just be a normal part of aging,” said Dr. Kevin Jackson, a neurosurgeon on staff at Good Samaritan Hospital. “The sooner you talk to your doctor, the better.”

An evaluation at Good Samaritan Hospital’s Memory Assessment Center can help determine if there are problems with cognitive function, which may be related to Alzheimer’s disease. While dementia is a progressive disease, it is only a symptom of a problem that might need further clarification. Diagnosing dementia becomes a process of exclusion by ruling out all other causes for symptoms and identifying a specific disease course.

Causes of dementia vary but can be associated with a prior stroke or traumatic brain injury, family history, chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, and depression. Women develop dementia at a higher rate than men, primarily because they are living longer. Dementia is more prevalent among Hispanics and blacks, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Although there is no cure, treatments can delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Drug therapy can support memory function and delay placement in a nursing home for up to a year or longer while maintaining the quality of life for patients in their home. Brain stimulating exercises, socialization and proper dietary support can prevent associated complications.

“Proper treatment can help patients continue to live independently,” Jackson said. “Our goal is to maintain a high quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients.”

Dementia also takes a toll on the families who care for patients. In 2012 alone, the Alzheimer’s Association estimated the cost for care of dementia patients at greater than $200 billion nationwide.

A support group for caregivers meets monthly at Good Samaritan Hospital on the third Friday of the month at 1:30 pm in the North Pavilion. All are welcome to attend these free one-hour sessions, presented in connection with the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information, call (630) 275-6171.

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