Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder (i.e., one which attacks neurons in the brain) which robs us of our memories, language, reasoning and thought. However, the clinical picture of Alzheimer’s has a very distinctive pattern which distinguishes it from other forms of dementia (dementia is a general term which simply means the loss of memory, some other mental function, and the loss of normal social functioning). In Alzheimer’s disease, the early signs are almost invariably the same and include loss of memory for recently presented information.
What does this mean practically? It means that someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s will not remember information presented to them a short time ago. For instance, if somebody receives a phone call, a few minutes later they may not remember who it was who called. Similarly, if they set out for the grocery store, once they arrive there they may not remember what it is they set out for.
Today, we are so used to receiving news all the time from our computers, our televisions, radios, and mobile phones that we don’t realize that we are being presented with new information all the time. The Alzheimer’s sufferer is at a particularly grave disadvantage in this situation. Current events may escape their memory stores and a good test of whether someone may be suffering from the disorder or not is whether they can remember information that appears as news on television or other ways. So, for instance, knowing the big events in the campaign for the US presidential election will be registered by most of us and remembered. The Alzheimer’s sufferer may not know that Hillary Clinton has dropped out of the race nor that Barack Obama has been nominated. Knowledge of these events, which most of us take for granted are lost to the Alzheimer’s sufferer and thus monitoring our loved ones and friends for signs that they are not aware of current events may help us to detect early signs of the disease. Concern that somebody may not be acquiring new information should be a trigger to have them evaluated in a memory disorder clinic.
The Roskamp Institute has two such clinics – one in Tampa and one in Sarasota, Florida and they offer full evaluations for Alzheimer’s and other causes of memory loss.