Don’t forget to worry …

Just like thinking a headache is a brain tumor and a pang of nausea is a pregnancy, it is easy to think that a lapse in your memory is a sign of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Yesterday, my five year old left for dance class without her bag.  Since it was definitely her fault (at her age and with me as her mother, she needs to be more responsible), I put down my iPhone, my coffee cup and my People magazine and reprimanded her.  She replied, “I don’t know what I was thinking, I must be losing my mind.”  Since I know that isn’t a line from Dr. Seuss, I can only imagine where she has heard such a thing, over and over and over.  I like to say that I thrive in chaos, but actually, I probably just forget that I am floundering miserably.  Things are constantly escaping my mind like inmates jumping the wall.  Dinner plans, birthday gifts and show-and-tell days have a tendency to slither through the cracks in my brain. I guess they want to get away from homework, holiday planning and general worry about things that won’t happen.  My mind is cluttered, my memory is shot.  Should I be worried?  I am sure I learned this in medical school but based on the last few sentences, I didn’t trust myself so I looked it up.Be concerned when …
1. You forget how to do something you have done many times before —  If you suddenly forget how to get to your best friend’s house, or if you can’t remember how to make your favorite meal – not good.

2. You have trouble learning something new — Electronics, computers or card games used to come easy to you and now you can’t figure out how to start the new toaster, or you used to be handy and now you can’t figure out how to put together one of your children or grandchildren’s Christmas presents – not good.

3.  You repeat yourself in the same conversation –  I think I do this a lot but it is usually very late at night and the person I am talking to is usually tuned out.  It can be very frustrating to both the speaker and the listener as it is tempting to say, “Stop talking.  You told me this already and if I have to hear about your work-out this morning one more time, someone is going to get hurt!!!”  I think I do this a lot but it is usually very late at night and the person I am talking to is usually tuned out.

4.  You are having trouble making choices – You stare in the fridge trying to decide what to drink or you stare at the closet with no idea what to wear.   (I am starting to worry more about myself.)

5.  You can’t keep track of what happens in a day – If you are having an increasingly difficult time remembering if you showered, took out the garbage or went to the food store, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor.

I started each of these “times to be concerned” with “you” but actually, it is usually a friend or family member who will notice first.  Even though the thought that something is wrong might be nagging at you, if someone else tells you that you are losing it, you should probably take it seriously.  If you have a loved one whose memory seems to be failing, bite the bullet and tell them that you are worried.  There are many things that can cause memory loss in addition to dementia, some of which are correctable.  There are also treatments for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia that can help to halt the progression of the disease.  If you noticed that someone was short of breath or was clutching at their chest, you would address it.   The brain is an organ just like the heart and lungs.  It needs to be taken care of.

Speaking of letting people know you are worried about them, I am offering $500 bucks to anyone who tips me off about my intervention.

Tomorrow, medical causes of memory loss.

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