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Alzheimer's Disease

Identifying Dementia

03/22/2000

Question:

My mother is 89, shes in pretty good health except for her mind. She seems to be slipping badly. She has quite a few problems remembering things, playing cards is a nightmare now, forgetting what her mutual fund is and asks "how much do I owe?" She doesn`t cook, can`t seem to concentrate on anything, sometimes doesn`t know who a person in a photo is, like a grandchild. Gets mixed up and acts like her husband of 20 years is her long dead first husband and talks about that time frame. We, her family think she is slightly senile. How long does it take to get worse? We are very worried, should we consult her doctor behind her back? Her husband tries to hide her problems from us. Thank you.

Answer:

From the question, it appears clear that there are significant changes in your mother`s cognition including memory for both short-term and long-term events and ability to think abstractly (card games, cooking). By conventional medical terminology, there does appear to be a dementing process present. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe loss of intellectual functions (thinking, remembering and reasoning) severe enough to interfere with everyday life. I would recommend that your mother be evaluated by a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia. This may be the primary physician, or perhaps a neurologist. A complete examination by a physician would determine the likely cause of her symptoms. Many conditions may cause dementia. It is possible that her dementia could be treated and reversible, so it is important that she be evaluated. The process usually involves a thorough medical history, physical and neurological examinations, mental status assessment, blood work, CT or MRI scan and psychological assessments. Thank you for your question.

Related Resources:

National Alzheimer's Association

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jon Stuckey, PhD
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University

Alan J Lerner, MD
Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University