NYACK, N.Y. -- The signs are often subtle at first: a misplaced book, getting lost on a familiar road or forgetting an appointment. These can happen to anyone, but for seniors such instances can be warning signs of a larger medical issue. That's why experts suggest testing early to determine if a parent is simply aging or is suffering from a neurological disorder.
“If a parent is starting to show signs of memory loss, bring them to a doctor sooner rather than later,” said Marianna Golden, M.D., attending neurologist at Nyack Hospital and practitioner at Rockland Neurological Associates in West Nyack. “They can determine if changes in memory are being caused by normal aging, Alzheimer’s disease, or another medical problem. The earlier a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the quicker they can start taking medication that may slow progression of memory loss,” said Golden.
There are many warning signs that a parent may be developing Alzheimer’s. “Typical signs of Alzheimer’s can include problems with simple daily activities such as leaving the stove on or the fridge open more than once, forgetting how to make a favorite recipe, or getting lost while driving,” said Golden.
Alzheimer’s medications are effective in slowing down the progression of the disease, especially if a person starts taking them in the early stages. “The earlier you start the medications, the better off you will be in the long run,” said Golden.
In some cases, memory loss is caused by another medical problem such as a stroke or a brain tumor, infection or metabolic abnormalities. In these cases, early diagnosis is also essential, in order to start treatment right away.
Having an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s not only allows for earlier treatment, but can help patients and their families plan for the future, take care of financial and legal issues, address potential safety issues and develop support networks.
Patients given an early diagnosis may also be able to participate in a clinical trial of possible new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, visit National Institute on Aging's website .