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ETpro's avatar

If you have been a forgetful type all your life, what are the signs that it's no longer just forgetfulness, it is the onset of dementia?

Asked by ETpro (34472points) January 13th, 2011

I was a forgetful kid who forgot to develop a better memory as I grew into an adult. I can put something down in a moment of distraction and end up searching the house like Sherlock Holmes to figure out where I was and where I left my keys, or sunglasses, or cell phone. All my adult life, I have occasionally been talking and reached for a word, and mid-sentence realized it wasn’t there in ready memory. It might have been a simple enough word, one I know as well as my own name, but it wouldn’t jump into the forefront of memory. I knew the meaning I wanted to express, but just had to substitute a different and perhaps less precise word. Hours later, the word I wanted will suddenly pop into my mind uninvited, too late for the party.

The same goes for names. I am pretty good with famous scientists and philosophers, because those subjects truly interest me. But actors, screenwriters, producers, directors. They float in and out of memory routinely, and remembering a particular one from a particular film may take days. Google is far more efficient. I’ve always been that way.

On the other hand, I know the SSNs for myself, my wife and my son. I know my Mastercard number and the 3 digit code. I know several dozen user name/password combinations, some of them using strong passwords with meaningless strings of numbers and letters in upper and lower case. I even remember my Navy service number from over 45 years ago.

So being forgetful in certain areas to begin with, how will I know if the first stages of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia are creeping up on me. What sort of forgetfulness is a certain sign? Don’t worry, I’ll keep a copy of the answers where I can refer to them in case I forget what you said.

I’m pretty sure I’m not there yet. At least I don’t remember any unusual forgetfulness. But I would like to see the warning signs if they do loom, and get to the doctor to see if the onset can be delayed. Stealing our sexiness, our looks, even our loved ones I can live with; painful though it is. But stealing our memories is the dirtiest trick of Father Time. That even steals the little we have left of now departed loved ones away from us.

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15 Answers

faye's avatar

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said, ‘where are my glasses’. I have always lost my keys, forgotten where I parked my car, wondered where I put the Christmas cards etc, etc. I also remember a my MC #. I think my mind is always going a hundred miles an hour and common things get set aside. When I can’t remember my ebay name, I’ll worry about dementia.

Pandora's avatar

I’ve also wondered the same thing. But I often forget to ask. :P
Sorry I can’t help out but I would think when you poor the dog food into a bowl and think it is cereal than there is a problem.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Forgetfulness is a symptom to watch out for, yes, but not the only one. Mood swings, excessive repetition, general confusion, disorientation, you may do something like go to the store and forget how you got there (or how to get home.)
Most likely it will be a loved one that observes changes in your behavior before you do.

filmfann's avatar

This morning I was brushing my teeth, or about to, when the phone rang, and I had to run to the bedroom to answer it, since the phone in the bathroom hasn’t worked since my son let the bathwater overflow. He was going to take a bath, but forgot about it when he passed by the television and saw a commerical for one of those pokeman things, and he had to run out to the store and get one. Not all the stores carry them. The one down the street used to have them, but now it’s a dairy queen. They have pretty good shakes, but when you order a banana shake, they make it with banana ice cream, which makes me mad, because I like them made with vanillia ice cream and real bananas, like they used to make down at fentons. I guess they still do, but I don’t live in Oakland anymore.
What was the question?

wundayatta's avatar

You’re not alone, friend. I have pretty much exactly the same symptoms as you do, only in my case, it has gotten dramatically worse in the last three years. It could be the meds I’m on. It could be age. It seems that this kind of memory loss is almost universal when you hit your fifties.

I am having a harder and harder time remembering the names of things, and it is getting a bit difficult at work. I know what I’m talking about and can describe; I just can’t come up with the name on the spot.

I don’t think I’m losing it, yet. Fluther still seems to think the stuff I write is worth reading.

I think that when dementia starts to set in, you kind of don’t think it’s happening. I think what will happen is that other people will start to tell you that something is happening. Or maybe not. They’ll just try to be more helpful, or something.

So I guess I think we’ll first notice it, should it happen, in the way other people respond to us.

marinelife's avatar

Here are the 10 Warning Sings of Alzheimer’s disease.

ETpro's avatar

@faye & @Pandora Thanks for the moral support.

@TheOnlyNeffie Nothing even remotely close to forgetting how to go places or get back. I have walked into a room only to ask myself why I went there. But I’ve been doing that my entire life as well. Thanks for the list of specific things to watch for.

@filmfann What question? Did I ask a question? :-)

@wundayatta Thanks for the thoughts and wishes. Have you talked to your doc about the meds? Some definitely can interfere with memory, and a modest change in prescription might make a marked difference. The only meds I take are Hydrochlorothiazide and Lisinopril (didn’t have to even look at the bottles for that :-) and they work great with zero observable side effects. But the first medication the doctor started me with kept the BP down, but every time I stooped over or squatted and then stood up, I had to hold on to something to let the dizziness pass. I would darn near black out. So little changes in the prescription can sometimes give good results and get rid of really annoying side effects. I wish you the best with it.

@marinelife Thanks so much. Upon review, I’m about to hit 67 and I have every one of the typical age related changes but not a single one or the warning signs. I just wanted to know because I don’t want to be the last to figure it out. I want to remain proactive as long as I am able, and plenty ornery old codgers like me can do that well past the century mark. George Burns comes to mind.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am in the club that worries about that too. But I still manage to find my way home from work and remember when I am to show up for work. And I have been like this all my life. One time a friend and I were going somewhere and I was racing around looking for my watch. My friend said wear a different watch, we have to get going. When I went to put on the 2nd choice watch I discovered the one I was searching for was already on my wrist. That was probably 30 years ago. I haven’t done that lately so I don’t think it is getting any worse.

ETpro's avatar

@rooeytoo I feel your pain. I’ve spent an hour searching for my sunglasses before I finally swallowed my pride and asked my wife where they were. After she quit laughing, she pointed out to me they were sitting on top of my head. I have a habit of parking them up there when I am inside and they are too dark to allow me to see well.

rooeytoo's avatar

@ETpro :-) old farts anonymous here I come!

CaptainHarley's avatar

Here’s a brief test for Alzheimer’s that is fairly reliable:

Balance on one foot for 30 seconds or longer. If you can do that without touching the floor with the free foot, chances are you don’t have Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s affects the sense of balance rather early on.

BTW… this does NOT prove that you have the disease if you cannot do it. The only certain way of telling if you have Alzheimers is a brain biopsy.

ETpro's avatar

Oh that is so comforting. I do a stretching routine each day before my workout. It includes standing on one foot and pulling the other bent leg up with the knee as close to my chest as I can get it, holding that till I can feel the pull in the hamstrings, then pulling the raised leg straight out by the foot and as high as I can get it, then off to the side, then leaning forward and pulling the foot as far up behind me as I can get it. I’ve got to be eating up two minutes or more standing on one foot for each leg. I’m OK for now. :-)

CaptainHarley's avatar

Kewl! Sounds like you got nuffin ta worry about! : D

I can do that with standing on my left foot, but not on my right one. My right foot turns out at about a 10 degree angle from all the damage that was done in that military parachuting jump that almost killed me. So when I try to stand on my right foot, I tend to fall over! LOL!

Aster's avatar

When I am swimming in thoughts of things that are crucial to me I can really lose it. Last year I went to my favorite grocery store. I wheeled the stuff out to the car, unloaded it then drove off leaving my purse in the cart. I knew I’d never see that purse again. A couple hours later , an older black man called and said he “found it in a trashcan in the parking lot.” My husband drove to pick it up. It had all my credit cards, my drivers’ license and my SS card still in it. No cash. Fortunately, I had no more than $35 in there.
I am waiting to drink bleach out of a small bottle instead of water. I’ll probably be better off.

ETpro's avatar

@Aster You would be wise to put your SS card somewhere other than your purse. It’s best kept in a safe place in the house where just such a moment of distraction doesn’t put it at risk of loss. I’m glad you got your ID and credit cards back. The cash is a loss, but nowhere near the hassle of losing all your ID.

I had a similar incident back in the 80s. After paying the restaurant bill, my billfold fell out of my back pocket in a booth of a trendy Santa Barbara eatery. I got all the way to the parking lot 2 blocks away before I realized it was missing, and went back to try to find it. A new couple was already seated at the table we had occupied, and when I asked them if they noticed it or would look for it, the guy gave me a snarky look and told me there wasn’t anything there when they sat down.

After negotiating my way out of the lot without a parking stub to show when I came in, I went straight home and reported the loss to the CC companies. But before I could get the loss report in, the snarky guy had rented a car in my name. He then drove it to Tijuana and sold it to a chop shop. It took me ages to convince Avis I had nothing to do with it, which was a huge bummer because I was a support engineer at the time traveling all over the US and world to help people get robotic manufacturing equipment online. I had to rent cars one or two times a week. And that record followed me everywhere.

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