Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Testing for alzheimer's.

1. Periods of memory loss which they often describe as absence. It's the loss of recall that they're describing, unfamiliar with what it really means;

2. Loss of cognitive ability for a period of time, usually fairly short, but recurring. One woman described her experience of getting into her car and looking down at the gas and brake pedals, suddenly aware that she had no idea what to do.

She consciously made herself relax, with slow breathing, and gradually the knowledge returned. She had this same experience in other situations and had had an MRI arranged by her doctor who had suspected she might have brain tumor. Which she didn't. Extensive testing had shown nothing to account for these difficulties.
3. In a more fearful person, these episodes cause tremendous terror reactions which may manifest outwardly as inexplicable attacks of rage or the sudden manifestation of heavy drinking issues;

4. Emotional outbreaks of an unexpected kind of may begin to occur, sudden weeping, loss of emotional control, wild accusations of a kind that might sound paranoid but are actually extreme fear reactions;

5. Stories of neighbors stealing, people breaking in, intruders, may mark this priod of time also;

6. Odd stories that don't make sense -- losing the car, driving off and finding it hard to get home.

Few people are both willing and able to share their sense of disquiet with family members, but some do. One woman, who had been dealing with an increasing sense of incapacity to carry on as before, said to hr husband one day, "I don't know what's going on but there's something very wrong with me. I just can't do these things any more. You're going to have to."

After medical investigation, she was diagnosed as having a dementia of the Alzheimer's type. And her husband did indeed begin to take over the tasks that had once been hers.

Their situation was unusual in that she was very open and honest. Even though everyone knows about Alzheimer's now, people are still seldom that honest with each other. Denial is still the most usual thing that happens.

I suppose that people still feel like little children -- that if they say nothing, then nothing will be the real answer. Our societal issues is that we've made dementias of the Alzheimer's type so fearful and awful that no-one wants to be around it, not even people who have it.

Maybe we start to think about how we need to change all that and have it be just one more illness that we could learn how to deal with.

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