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The fight against dementia

Most of us have had moments where we forget where we placed our cup of coffee, the book we were just reading and even the keys to the car. Some of us have even asked our friends to help us remember something, only to have that friend later ask with a puzzled look on their face, “Now what was I supposed to remind you of?” While many of us will often laugh or make fun of ourselves, it becomes worrisome as the incidents of memory lapses and forgetfulness increase.
As people age, they worry that sometimes forgetting the right word to say or missing an appointment automatically means they are in the beginning stages of some form of dementia. There are age-related changes that are normal. Memory loss that causes disruption in your daily life, such as forgetting important information and recently learned information may be indicative of dementia, but it’s important to remember that a typical-age related change would be forgetting someone’s name or appointments, but remembering them at a later time. Dementia patients may find they have trouble following plans or working with numbers and problems concentrating, while making occasional math errors in your checkbook is perfectly normal as we age. Forgetting how to drive to a well-known location or remembering the rules of your favorite game can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, but don’t be concerned if you forget how to reset the microwave or remember all the steps to recording one of your favorite shows on TV. People with Alzheimer’s often forget where they are and how they got there and lose track of time, but it’s normal to sometimes forget what day of the week it is and then remember it a little later on. It’s not a normal part of the aging process to have trouble joining in on a conversation and calling things by the wrong name, but it is a part of the normal aging process to sometimes forget the correct word for an object. Someone suffering with Alzheimer’s may put things in strange places such as putting their keys in the refrigerator, but remember it’s normal to sometimes forget where you put the remote control, parked your car or where you placed your book.
There are many causes of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the prevalent form. Hardening of the arties in the brain causes vascular dementia, the second most common form. Both Parkinson and Huntington disease patients can be stricken with dementia. There is also a host of disorders such as head injuries, infections, stroke, toxic exposure to metals, metabolic and hormone disorders and even nutritional deficiencies that present with both confusion and dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of the aging process.
It has been estimated that 5.4 million people living in the United States are suffering from Alzheimer’s. One in eight have Alzheimer’s and two thirds of all with the disease are women. While some people may live for 20 years, many survive just four to eight years after their diagnosis. For people suffering with this debilitating disease, 75 percent will be admitted to a nursing home by the time they are 80 years old. In Tennessee alone, the number of patients with Alzheimer’s in 2010 was estimated to be 120,000, a 20 percent increase in the last ten years.