There are numerous “odd-ball” clues in the life of an elderly person that eventually lead to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. These oddities are noticeable to the family and friends of the aging person and often overshadow the real troublemakers: forgetfulness, loss of judgement, and negative emotions. It is like that old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Families and neighbors pay lots of attention to the irritating “trees” popping up and marring the formerly perfect landscape of their elderly person’s life. It is a big deal when FPL cuts off the electricity at Mom’s house. It is a source of amusement when Mom’s cat grows larger and larger each time her daughter visits. It is confusing to understand why Mom now uses her oven as an in-basket for the mail. Is it just a coincidence that Mom wears her favorite dress every time that her daughter visits?

If you really want to help your loved one, look beyond the superficial clues. Focus on the underlying causes. A friend of mine complained, “My Mom is going to kill her dog. She feeds him twenty times a day. He’s so fat he can barely move! She really loves that dog, but she forgets that she already fed him. She is going to be so upset when that dog dies!” I suppose I could have responded with doggie diet tips, or a memory of a favorite pet of mine that had died. Instead, I zeroed in on the real problem. I asked, “So how else does your Mom exhibit signs of memory loss?”

The closer you are to your loved one, the harder it is to look at the problem objectively. It is very difficult to face the life-long, progressively worsening problems created by Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It is important to seek outside, professional and medical evaluations and assistance. It is necessary to plan for the care of the patient, both now and in the future.

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