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Alzheimer's Disease

Discussing Possible Alzheimer's Disease with Family



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.


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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Response by:

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