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The Journal Gazette

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Monday, June 10, 2019 1:00 am

Conversation starter

Don't put off discussion of Alzheimer's symptoms

Lori Stock

Lori Stock is a care consultant of the Alzheimer's Association Greater Indiana Chapter.

As the hustle and bustle of Monday morning begin, you hear your husband in the other room going frantic because he can't find his car keys. You think nothing of it, as you've misplaced your keys many times before, too.

Forty-five minutes go by searching for the precious metal, and still – nothing. As you open the kitchen cabinet to grab your favorite coffee mug, lo and behold – the set of keys is sitting in the cabinet. You're relieved, but then it hits you. Keys don't belong in the kitchen cupboard. Something isn't right.

June is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month, and the Alzheimer's Association wants families to feel comfortable having conversations about Alzheimer's disease.

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's disease is forgetting recently learned information. One might forget important dates or events, or ask for the same information repeatedly. A person with Alzheimer's may also put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again.

Additionally, people with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. They may have trouble driving to a familiar location or managing a project at work.

Certainly, initiating discussions about a loved one's memory can be difficult, but the Alzheimer's Association has tips and conversation starters that can be used as a guide while talking to a loved one: access the situation at hand, decide who will participate in the conversation, determine when and where the discussion should take place, and talk about seeing a doctor together. Realize the first conversation may not be successful. If needed, have multiple conversations.

While no one wants to receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis, there are benefits to receiving a diagnosis sooner rather than later. An early diagnosis allows the person with the disease to play an active role in planning for the future and making the most of life. Furthermore, not all people with memory problems have Alzheimer's. Perhaps the symptoms could be the result of a treatable condition.

The journey toward an Alzheimer's diagnosis is often complicated by barriers that delay or prevent diagnosis, including denial, fear, anxiety and stigma. Close family members are typically the first to notice memory issues or cognitive problems with a loved one, but are often hesitant to speak up.

A 2018 survey by the Alzheimer's Association found 75% of Americans would be concerned about offending a family member if they were to approach that person about observed signs of Alzheimer's. Even more alarming, 38% said they would wait until a family member's symptoms worsened before approaching them with concerns. Nearly one in three Americans (29%) would not say anything at all.

According to the Alzheimer's Association 2019 Facts and Figures report, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. By 2050, that number is projected to rise to 14 million nationwide

In Allen County alone, about 5,300 people are living with the disease, and another 16,000 are caregivers.

Sadly, these numbers could be even higher with the number of individuals who go undiagnosed.

If you notice any of the signs of Alzheimer's, do not ignore them. For resources to help start the conversation with a friend or loved one, visit “Our Stories” at alz.org/ourstories.