Practically everyone knows of examples where older people refused to acknowledge obvious signs of approaching dementia until it was simply too late.
It doesn’t help the situation at all that the individual’s friends and family members are just as hesitant to ignore a growing problem.
This becomes a double-edged sword.
“Nobody wants to admit they can’t live independently anymore,” Carolyn McClanahan, director of financial planning for Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla., was quoted as saying in a recent MSN Money article by Liz Weston.
“Denial is common in family members, too, because acknowledging what’s happening can be too painful and frightening,” Weston wrote.
This pattern of denial on the part of the person beginning the spiral into end-of-life forgetfulness and those around them who care can have some very real consequences, the story points out.
These can include:
- The person with symptoms could be suffering another, resolvable issue, such as a reaction to medication, a vitamin deficiency or an infection.
- Even if she does have Alzheimer’s, early detection permits treatment with medications that can allow her to remain independent longer.
- Delay can prevent the person from making her wishes about future treatment known, putting another burden on the family. It can rob her of the opportunity to make important financial and legal plans, including protecting her assets and designating someone to make decisions for her when she no longer can.
“Making a bad financial decision isn’t always a sign of dementia, of course,” the article points out. “Our ability to make good financial choices tends to peak in our late 40s and early 50s, sliding gradually downhill from there, according to research by Federal Reserve economist Sumit Agarwal. So older people in general are more vulnerable to scams and questionable investment pitches than they were in middle age.”
An occasional financial planning lapse may not mean anything, but a pattern may.
“Sometimes the line between normal age-related memory issues and incipient dementia can seem blurry, but the Alzheimer’s Association offers helpful tips for discerning the difference,” the story states.
- Forgetting a word now and then is a normal part of aging. What’s not: using made-up names, such as calling a watch a “hand clock,” or having difficulty carrying on a conversation.
- Getting confused about the day of the week? That can be normal aging, if the person figures it out later. Likewise, misplacing things isn’t a cause of concern if the person eventually can retrace her steps to find what she’s lost. But if she can’t figure out where she mislaid her keys or what day or season it is, there may be a problem.
- Becoming more set in our ways can be a typical part of aging, and we may get irritated if our routines are disrupted. Big personality or mood changes, however, usually aren’t normal. If someone becomes anxious, easily upset, defensive or suspicious when he didn’t used to be, dementia may be the cause.