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“Old Timers” or Alzheimer’s? How to know the difference and when to seek help

Some days you misplace the car keys or leave the kids’ lunch boxes sitting on the kitchen counter on your way out the door. As you age, these minor, forgetful acts can turn into something much more challenging to manage.

Unfortunately, our loved ones don’t often recognize these memory changes, making it even harder to help. Learn some of the most common signs and underlying symptoms of the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s with insight from Dr. Abhinav Saxena, MD – Medical Director of Behavior Health for Southwell.

Memory and communication complications are the most prevalent signs for individuals suffering from dementia, but can also be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s Disease, according to Saxena.

“This often looks like forgetting names, appointments, or repeating questions that have already been answered,” Saxena said. “Depression can be another sign of Alzheimer’s. Although depression is an issue for a variety of individuals, it is something that should be addressed medically. Whether the cause is tied to memory loss or is simply a situational occurrence, the individual should receive further attention. This type of internal suffering requires close watch, especially when paired with memory loss.”

Change in personality is apparent in patients suffering from either dementia or Alzheimer’s. Saxena said the most notable forms of this can be seen in distorted reasoning, lack of focus, and can sometimes result in illegal acts where the individual is unable to discern between right and wrong.

Changes in appetite, sleep and energy are common and early signs of Alzheimer’s. Individuals can experience an increased appetite, however, continue to lose weight. Additionally, they may experience excessive sleepiness during the day which can result in altered sleep schedules making it difficult for caregivers during the night hours when they are typically awake. Sun-downing is also common and includes an increase in confusion and agitation in the afternoon hours going into night.

Frequent falling, unstable limbs, and lack of balance are all common factors of Alzheimer’s, and are major hazards to be aware of if someone you know is showing signs of memory loss. It’s important to keep in mind that even though these signs indicate memory loss, no one example means someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The Sylvia Barr Center, our geriatric psychiatric unit, is here to support you, free of judgement, with the highest quality of care,” said Saxena. “Most of our stays are usually fairly short, often just 7-12 days, so you or your loved one can get back to living their optimal life. Our diverse team is able to treat a wide variety of mental health concerns, and we provide diagnostic testing to accurately map out your path to healing. Each of our patients receives a full treatment team to help with their journey as well, and we can provide recreational therapy along with many other valuable resources. The brain is complex, so if you find yourself confused or with unanswered questions about a family member, we are here as a community resource for you.”

Call The Sylvia Barr Center at 229-896-8100 or visit mysouthwell.com/southwell-medical-sylvia-barr-center/for more information.