By Elisa Brown, PA-C

Senile Dementia is a disorder of aging and neurodegeneration. We usually start seeing signs of short- term memory loss at the age of 65 years.

Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) is a disease consisting of neuronal amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. We usually see the onset around the same age of 65 but it can present in earlier years. As these amyloid plaques and tau tangles progressively accumulate we start seeing the early signs of disease. Researchers are still trying to discover the etiology of the disease and the physiology of progression. There is a genetic link to the disease seen in early onset AD, family history is a risk, and acquired factors could contribute including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, brain injury and cerebrovascular disease. Alzheimer’s disease can only be definitively diagnosed with autopsy after death. The Rottenberg study showed that the average age of diagnosis was 82 but that memory issues started 16 years prior.

The early signs of AD are memory loss, difficulty solving problems, difficulty with time and place or events, difficulty performing everyday tasks, mood changes, withdrawal from socializing and vision loss.

The memory loss that occurs as we age may be expected like forgetting where we placed our car keys or forgetting why we came into the room we are in but if a loved one starts repeating the same questions over and over or they are forgetting something that was just spoken about then it is time to see your provider.  The saying goes that if you forgot that you forgot something then it’s probably not Alzheimer’s Dementia.

Solving problems become more difficult especially regarding numbers.  If balancing a checkbook or handling money becomes challenging, these are early signs of AD.

Time and dates become increasingly difficult to remember and not being able to plan events in the future may be an early sign. Alzheimer’s patients will easily get lost and have no idea where home is.

Forgetting the names of everyday items or forgetting how to use those items such as a tooth brush used to brush teeth may also be an early sign.

If a loved one stops bathing or grooming themselves this may be an early sign.

Alzheimer’s patients may also become very moody, aggressive or fearful and if you notice new symptoms of depression or anxiety, it may be time to talk to your provider.

Vision loss and decreased hearing can lead to worsening progression of the disease as we are not functioning with all our senses.  Get annual eye exams as well as Audiology assessments for hearing aids is recommended.

We encourage all Medicare patients over the age of 65 years to get their Annual Wellness screenings completed each year to assess for these early signs of AD so that interventions can be made to decrease the progression and to get help sooner rather than later.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Nevada has great resources for families including support groups.

The link is > https://www.alz.org/dsw

Visiting Angel’s is another resource to help those suffering with the disease and their families.

The link > https://www.visitingangels.com/vegas/alzheimers-services