Because there was so much interest in the blog, "Aging, memory impairment and driving," I wanted to look into a related topic.
How permanent is memory impairment in later life?
Not all memory impairment is permanent. Few people realize this. Family and friends of an older person experiencing memory problems are too quick to credit the problem to Alzheimer's Disease. As a result a condition that may be reversible never gets treated.
I've also known older adults who don't want confirmation about their own suspected memory impairment. They deal with the problem on the premise that ignorance is bliss. They have already assumed that there is no cure for their ailment, and therefore, they don't look for one. They have already decided that it's probably Alzheimer's Disease, or a related disorder, and they don't want to confirm it. Hence, they don't tell their doctor.
The truth is that there can be many causes of memory impairment that are reversible, if properly diagnosed in time. Here are some examples:
*Medication interactions or medication side effects
*Urinary tract infections
*Vitamin B deficiency
There is a high incidence of depression in older people and few receive thorough treatment. Most get no treatment at all. There is a term called "depressive pseudo-dementia" to describe elderly patients with severe memory impairment whose cause is depression. Research has found that "once their depression is treated, memory returns to baseline." ("Improving Memory:Understanding Age-Related Memory Loss")
So if I have just described you or someone you know, here are two tips. Call the Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio and ask to speak with someone about diagnosing reversible causes of memory impairment. The other tip is to find a geriatrician — a physician who is a specialist in the care and treatment of health problems in the elderly — and get a geriatric assessment. University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic both provide geriatric assessment services.
For those who are interested, there is an "Alzheimer's Walk for A Cure" at 2 p.m. September 14 at Osborne Park. You can sign up on the www.alz.org/nwohio Web site or you can simply make a donation by sponsoring me, Sue Daugherty, in my walk at this event. Make your checks payable to The Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio and send them to Serving Our Seniors, 310 E. Boalt St., Sandusky, Ohio.