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Alzheimer's Disease

Discussing Possible Alzheimer's Disease with Family

02/15/2007

Question:

My mother is in her early 80`s. Although still entirely self-sufficient, she exhibits short-term memory loss which doesn`t worry me too much--especially since all of her friends in that age group seem to have it. However, at times her responses are a little garbled/confused and I`ve noticed she is sometimes "tongue-tied"--in other words, she can`t find a word/noun she`s used all her life. Her thinking ability has also slowed down a significant amount. She sometimes uses the wrong word (i.e. "eyes" when she means "ears"), and if I even hint that there may be a problem that we should have checked out, she says I musn`t "go there" and I musn`t worry--this is all a part of normal aging and all her friends experience it. She takes good care of herself--cooking good food, driving and spending time with her friends. Her home is immaculate (she has a cleaning lady). She manages her medications and takes precautions in order to prevent falls.

I`m an obsessive worrier, and so I would very much like to believe my mother when she says there is no problem. She won`t submit to any tests because she is so convinced of this. And if she won`t agree to be tested, I don`t see what I can do except to wait and see what happens.

My question is simply: Could this "tongue-tied" and "wrong-word" behavior be part of normal aging as she insists it is--or does it belong ONLY to early-onset dementia or Alzheimer`s symptoms? In other words, does it HAVE TO BE dementia or Alzheimer`s--or could it just be normal aging?

Thanks for your help.

Answer:

Yes, her changes could be healthy aging. Her primary medical doctor should be able to do some routine screening tests. If not, you could ask for referral.

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

Response by:

Robert P Friedland, MD Robert P Friedland, MD
Formerly, Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University