Janine Willemsen will be at an upcoming Alzheimer Society of B.C. open house in Maple Ridge in honour of World Alzheimer Month of September. (Contributed)

Alzheimer’s disease more than just memory loss

The Alzheimer Society of B.C. will be holding an open house in Maple Ridge

Anybody can misplace the keys to their car or their cell phone from time to time.

But when memory loss becomes significant enough to cause difficulty in a person’s day-to-day functioning, they may have Alzheimer’s disease.

Janine Willemsen, a support and education coordinator with the First Link Program of the Alzheimer Society, will be at an upcoming open house in Maple Ridge in honour of World Alzheimer Month of September to share with the public information on programs and services the Alzheimer Society has to offer and to talk to people about the warning signs, what the disease is, how is it different from dementia and the importance of getting an early diagnosis.

Dementia, said Willemsen, is the term used to describe a group of symptoms.

It is a general decline in mental abilities overall in a person and can be caused by a number of conditions or diseases, Alzheimer’s disease being one.

“It is the most common of the neurological diseases that cause the dementia,” said Willemsen.

Willemsen says that Alzheimer’s disease causes much more than just memory loss.

The biggest indicator of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities. One big warning sign is difficulty performing familiar tasks.

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“So if somebody knew how to do something their whole life or a majority of their life, and all of a sudden, they are struggling with that,” Willemsen said.

Issues with language is another sign. That could be forgetting a word, said Willemsen, or substituting a word that doesn’t fit the context of the sentence of what people are talking about.

“That is not the same as what we term tip-of-the-tongue moment. We all have those,” she said.

Another thing that often happens and people with dementia will tell you, said Willemsen, is they get disorientated in time and space.

”If they’ve travelled or walked from home to the corner store for the last 20 years and all of a sudden they get half way there and they are totally lost,” she explained, adding that it may take them one minute to get back their bearings or sometimes longer.

Depending on the disease causing the dementia, some people can have impaired judgment, which could mean that they don’t recognize their own medical issues or wear inappropriate clothing, like too little on a cold day or the opposite, too much clothing on a hot day.

RELATED: Alzheimer’s campaign tackles stigma of dementia

Some people might have issues with abstract thinking and executive functioning, said Willemsen. That would be having problems with numbers like making change or balancing a cheque book, something that person was quite capable of before.

A person might also start misplacing things in unusual places, for example, putting their watch in a sugar bowl.

There could be changes in personality and sudden mood swings.

“You can have where all of a sudden a person who was really easy going, it becomes quick tempered,” said Willemsen, adding that people also tend to become paranoid and feel threatened like always feeling somebody is out to get them.

One final symptom is a loss of initiative where the person loses interest in maybe meeting with friends or family or doing certain activities.

“It’s actually the damage that is happening in the brain and nobody realizes, it because it starts so slowly,” said Willemsen.

The Alzheimer Society will be at the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society Seniors Activity Centre every second Monday from now on for the public to drop in or make appointments for one-to-one and family meetings.

The open house takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30 at the Seniors Activity Centre at 12150-224th St. in Maple Ridge.

For more information call 604-467-4993.



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