• Do you worry about getting old and senile? Well, there is no such thing as "Just getting senile". Forgetfulness, however, may accompany normal aging, especially
  • 1. difficulty recalling names
  • 2. lessened ability to concentrate
  • 3. difficulty remembering where you left things
  • It is only when memory loss and confusion begin to interfere with daily living that this becomes abnormal. Forgetting where you put the keys is normal. Putting them in the microwave to cook them isn't.
  • Senile dementia blends in with Alzheimer's and it is only on a post mortem autopsy that a diagnosis becomes definite. So, who needs a definite diagnosis!
  • Alzheimer's disease was first noted in 1906 by a German neuropathologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Did you know that over 20 million people around the world, 4 million people in the United States alone, are estimated to be suffering from Alzheimer's today? By the year 2050 a threefold increase is expected. Phew! The grim statistics for the numbers of those now afflicted are
  • 10% of those who are age 65
  • 30% of those who are age 75
  • 50% of those who age 85 or older
  • Examples of famous people so afflicted are Ronald Reagan, now age 90; Rita Haywood, at age 68; Barry Goldwater, at age 85; Burgess Merredith at age 89 as well as Sugar Ray Robinson, Erick Copeland and the list goes on and on. Death may not necessarily come directly from the disease, but indirectly, because of secondary problems caused by decreased activity.
  • Dementia is the loss of mental abilities involving memory, reasoning, judgment and other areas of thinking, which is severe enough to interfere with work, normal social activities and other routines associated with daily life. The key is that it is progressive.
  • The causes of dementia are
  • Alzheimer's
  • Senility, a form of Alzheimer's but is usually considered to be a milder degree of that diagnosis.
  • Strokes: usually many small ones affecting different areas of the brain. This can be ruled out with an MRI scan.
  • Reaction to medications: be especially careful with over the counter medications and homeopathic medications which contain uncontrolled dosages and poorly researched ingredients.
  • Prescription medication can also have an effect on memory. Digoxin needs to be closely monitored (and usually is). Tagamet in high doses can cause memory loss. Inderal can cause depression. Tranquilizers of all kinds can be at fault.
  • Mixes of many different types of medications are a potential problem. Eliminate as many medications as your physician feels you can. Older bodies often dispose of medications at a slower rate and these medications have an increased effect of the brain.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Vitamin B deficiencies, especially Vitamin B12. This can be detected with a blood test and easily remedied with supplements.
  • Hematoma, (blood clot) on the brain, occurring after a fall with a blow to the head, especially if on aspirin or Coumadin.
  • Tumor of the brain
  • Thyroid deficiency: again, easily detected with the blood test TSH.
  • Depression: difficult to diagnose but easy to treat. For instance, when asked for the date the patient with Alzheimer's typically guesses the wrong date. The depressed patient will say "I don't know", being unable to make the effort to answer.
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: this is usually caused by a head injury due to a previous fall. In addition to memory loss and confusion, a diagnostic symptom is an ataxic gait (difficulty walking). Surgery can relieve the pressure in the brain and the symptoms.
  • Post pump syndrome: about 10% of patients put on a heart-lung bypass system develop some dementia post operatively due to tiny blood clots that travel to the brain.
  • Low oxygen levels can cause problems with memory and slow thinking. Supplemental oxygen reverses this deficit.
  • The physician doing a physical probably will give a simple mental status questionnaire, by asking such questions as
  • 1.What year is it now?
  • 2.What month is it now?
  • 3.What time is it (within one hour)?
  • 4.Count backwards 20 to 1.
  • 5.Say the months in reverse order.
  • Whew! Feel better now that you have successfully passed that quiz?