Brenda Lyle – Florida Today
Q: I’m forgetful. Should I see a neurologist?
A: Anatomical and chemical changes occur in our brains over time. As we age, the number of connections between neurons (synapses) decreases, which results in learning and memory deficits. We generate less brain chemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, which help us feel happy. All of these changes can impact the functioning of our aging brains, which begin to shrink as early as our 30’s and 40’s!
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning (thinking, remembering and reasoning) and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Worldwide, 55 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. According to the U.K. based Alzheimer’s Society, around two in every 100 people age 65 to 69 have dementia. Age is the biggest risk factor and for those over 90, around 33 in every 100 people have dementia. Because memory loss can sometimes be a symptom of other illnesses, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis if you feel you are losing your memory.
Where to start
Your primary care physician can do a baseline memory screening and labs to rule out other causes of memory loss. If the doctor has reason for concern, he or she may refer you to a neurologist. Neurologists are trained in nervous system disorders, but have different specialties. Look for a neurologist that specializes in memory disorders, i.e. dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association website has an informative guide to help you know what to look for when choosing a neurologist. https://www.alz.org/media/documents/alzheimers-dementia-choosing-a-doctor-ts.pdf
What to expect
The neurologist will order labs, and perhaps imaging, that may show the cause of your memory loss. Neurologists may refer you to a neuropsychologist for a thorough exam to test your language, reading and problem-solving skills. A neurologist specializing in memory loss may also suggest a research company for additional tests and opportunities to participate in clinical trials. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments that may change disease progression, and drug and non-drug options that may help symptoms.
Memory loss is scary. One Senior Place in Viera and Greater Orlando exists to help seniors and their families find the resources they need. To schedule free baseline memory testing or for support group information, call us at 321-751-6771 in Viera. Visitors to www.OneSeniorPlace.com can also download the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Resource Guide. Doctors, researchers and clinicians agree: treatment to slow the onset of dementia and reduce symptoms– starts with an early diagnosis.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.