Saturday, November 14, 2009

Simple Tests to Detect Alzheimer's and Dementia the Old Fashioned Way

In my little world here in Delray Beach, Florida I have learned a harsh lesson -- it is very difficult to diagnose mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and probable Alzheimer's. Here are some simple tests for Alzheimer's and dementia that could be helpful......
Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I knew something was wrong with my mother. I knew it. When I would mention some of my concerns to family and friends they would usually conclude -- she is getting old. When it first started to really bother me my mother was 86 years old.

Her friends that saw her everyday would tell me she is doing great. Her doctor of six years didn't see a problem.
Subscribe to The Alzheimer's Reading Room--via Email

I did know her behavior was undergoing subtle changes. She talked about money incessantly, she complained about being bored incessantly. She started scrapping her feet on the ground. She said things that lead me to believe she was feeling insecure, maybe fear -- these were very different than what I heard her saying in the past.

After my mother was diagnosed with dementia her friends refused to believe both the diagnosis and me. When she would talk to family and friends that lived far away they would usually say --she sounds great.

She did sound great. She could still drive, go to the store, and play bingo. What they didn't see was how her behavior would often turn erratic. I invited all of them to come live in the front row for a few days -- they passed.


The time came when I decided to come and spend some extended time with my mother and try to find out what was happening. At the time, you could put everything I knew about Alzheimer's and dementia in a thimble.

It took a few months before I finally started to understand the problem. It took four doctors to get to the bottom of the problem. None of the people that were seeing my mother on a daily basis saw a problem.

People in an early stage of dementia are very good at disguising the problem. They can laugh and change the conversation when you ask them questions about memory, or the ability to go here and go there. For me, it was the changes in behavior, the meanness, and the inability to walk more than a block that tipped me off.


If a person suffering from dementia gets lost or starts having problems driving, you will never hear about it. The last thing an elderly person wants to do is lose their independence. One of the biggest symbols of independence is the drivers license. Trying to get that drivers license is like trying to get a steak out of the mouth of a bull dog.


After I had been hear a couple of years, I learned some interesting things about my mothers behavior.

She drove her car over a concrete abutment, through a hedge and hit a tree. She then drove the car around some trees, over a sidewalk, over the lawn, and put the care in her condominium parking space. She didn't tell me, my brother, or my sister.

When I first learned about this her friends were laughing telling the story. They were impressed by the fact that she actually got the car back into her space. They did not see it as an indication that maybe she shouldn't be driving -- or worse.

Her friends, still friends, also forgot to mention that they stopped inviting my mother to their lunch time outings to restaurants because she constantly complained about money. When I asked them years later, when I first learned about this, if she had always done this -- they said no. In other words, her behavior had clearly changed but it had no impact on their view of her health.


If you live far away from your parent and they are over 80, there is a good chance you could end up in the same situation I found myself in six years ago.

Here are few things you can try to spot mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's or dementia at an early stage.

To continue reading -- go here.