Understanding what is (and isn't) dementia or Alzheimers

Alzheimer's and dementia are anxiety-producing words as one ages. Wandering a parking lot searching for your car, or momentarily forgetting what day of the week it is can sometimes lead to the thought: Is IT happening to me?

It's helpful to know there are changes in memory that are typical to aging.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, the designation of younger-onset (also known as early-onset) Alzheimer's is applicable to individuals younger than age 65 with the disease.

This stat is comforting, but it is also helpful to know what to look for. "One of the first signs of dementia is often memory loss, forgetting recently learned information or important dates, but there are several different ways that dementia symptoms may manifest," says Kallmyer. "For some people, spatial visual problems may cause difficulty reading, or judging distance which may cause problems with balance or driving. For others, withdrawal from work or social activities is common because individuals may have a hard time processing activities or group interactions."

Kallmyer adds its important to know that Alzheimer's disease and dementia symptoms are not a typical part of aging. "While every individual may experience one or more of these signs to different degrees, when any of these symptoms are disrupting daily life, we encourage a visit to the doctor for evaluation."

Kallmyer says diagnosing dementia is a rule-out process with multiple tests. "And we do know that some individuals have symptoms due to conditions that can be addressed and even reversed."

"For those who receive a dementia or Alzheimer's diagnosis, the earlier the person with the disease and their family are able to plan for the road ahead, making decisions together in advance, rather than at a point of crisis, is positive," says Kallmyer.

— Rose Marie Mikolajczak for Primetime

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