The Aging Brain… Are you noticing any changes?
Age-related memory loss is common and usually limited to difficulty recalling recently learned information, missing a monthly payment, forgetting what day it is and remembering later; sometimes forgetting what word to use, and losing things from time-to-time.
When loss of memory and other cognitive abilities interferes with daily life, dementia may be the cause. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases.
As with any disease, early diagnosis may help preserve daily functioning and help in planning for the future. The first step is scheduling an appointment with a primary-care physician, who will most likely ask the following questions:
- What symptoms have occurred?
- When did they begin?
- How often do they occur?
- Have they gotten worse?
No definitive tests can diagnose Alzheimer’s. The physician may refer you to a specialist for further assessment.
Dementia Checklist – Levels of Cognitive Loss
Below is a list of symptoms and stages. This is a general way to understand the progression of the illness. There may be significant variation among individuals.
LEVEL 5 – EARLY LOSS
Running on Routine / Repeating Stories
- Some word problems and loss of reasoning skills
- Easily frustrated by changes in plans or routines
- Seeks reassurance but resents take over
- Still does well with personal care and activities
- Tends to under or overestimate skills
- Seeks out authority figures when upset or frustrated
- Points out other’s errors, but doesn’t notice own behaviors
- May have some awareness (“Just not right”), might blame others or self
- Can’t remember “new” rules, locations, plans, discussions, facts
LEVEL 4 – MODERATE LOSS
Just Get It Done! / Wanting a Purpose and a Mission
- Gets tasks done, but quality is getting to be a problem
- Leaves out steps or makes errors and WON’T go back and fix it
- Can help with lots of things, needs some guidance as he/she goes
- Likes models and samples, uses other’s actions to figure out what to do
- Asks “what/where/when” often
- Can do personal-care tasks with supervision and prompts/often refuses “help”
- Still very social, BUT content is limited and confusing at times
- Tries to leave to get to older, familiar time, situation OR get away from fighting
- Can’t remember what happened, can mis-remember, goes back in time at times
LEVEL 3 – MIDDLE LOSS
See It, Touch It, Take It, Taste It / Hunting and Gathering
- Touches and handles almost anything that is visible
- Does not recognize others’ ownership, takes things, invades space, gets too close
- Can still walk around and go places, gets into things
- Language is poor and comprehension very limited, does take turns
- Responds to tone of voice, body language, and facial expression
- Loses the ability to use tools and utensils
- Does things because they feel/look/taste good, refuses if they don’t
- Stops doing when it isn’t interesting anymore
- Can often imitation you, but not always aware of you as a person
LEVEL 2 – SEVERE LOSS
Gross Automatic Action / Constant GO or Down and Out
- Paces, walks, rocks, swings, hums, claps, pats, rubs
- Frequently ignores people and small objects
- Doesn’t stay down long in any one place
- Lacks interest in food, significant weight loss expected at this level
- Can grossly imitate big movements and actions
- Generally enjoys rhythm and motion (music and dance)
- Doesn’t use individual fingers or tools (more eating with hands)
- Either moves toward people and activity or leaves busy, noisy places
- Chewing/swallowing problems common; soft food may be needed
- May not talk much, understands demonstration better than gestures or words
LEVEL 1 – PROFOUND LOSS
Stuck in Glue / Immobile and Reflexive
- Generally bed- or chair-bound, can’t move much on own
- Often contracted with high-tone muscles, primitive reflexes reappear
- Poor swallowing and eating
- Still aware of movement and touch
- Often sensitive to voice and noise; startles easily to sounds, touch, movement
- Difficulty with temperature regulation
- Limited responsiveness at times
- Moves face and lips a lot, may babble or repeatedly moan or yell
– Information courtesy of Heather McKay
SUGGESTED DEMENTIA RESOURCES
Alzheimer’s New Jersey: AlzNJ.org / 1 (888) 280-6055
Alzheimer’s Association: Alz.org / 1 (800) 272-3900
Lewy Body Dementia Association: LBDA.org
Dementia Society of America: DementiaSociety.org
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: PDF.org
WE ARE HERE TO HELP!
Christian Health offers a variety of programs, services, and residence options for individuals living with memory impairment and those who love them. Call (201) 848-5200 or visit ChristianHealthNJ.org for more information.
Christian Health has three different memory-support residences guided by our compassionate Person- and Family-centered Care model: The Courtyard at The Longview Assisted Living Residence, Heritage Manor Nursing Home, and Southgate behavior-management unit.
Ramapo Ridge Behavioral Health (RRBH) has earned the distinction of Disease-specific Care Certification for Dementia from The Joint Commission, the premier health-care quality improvement and accrediting body in America. RRBH is the only hospital in New Jersey and one of only two in the nation to earn this certification.
Christian Health offers three Caregivers Support Groups; all are free, and one is dedicated solely to caregivers of individuals living with dementia. For more information, call (201) 848-5200.
For caregivers who would benefit from professional therapy, LiveWell Counseling offers a variety of treatment options and hours.
Christian Health Woodhaven of Wayne and Wyckoff are medical/social day programs offering specific activities and events for individuals with memory-care needs in a safe and loving environment.
Christian Health professionals are available to speak to your group, organization, or workplace about memory impairment and other topics of interest related to dementia through our active and robust Speakers Bureau.
This material has been reviewed and approved by the Christian Health Patient and Family Advisory Council to ensure that the patient and family perspective has been included.