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Aging Well: Our Real Fear of Dementia

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Reading, Pennsylvania.

By Wendy Kerschner on Reading Eagle [Nov 10. 2019]

I was chatting with a group of female friends recently when dementia became a topic of conversation.

It started innocently enough, with one of us forgetting something we should have known and then responding with the all-too-common comeback: “I hope I don't have dementia!”

Dementia is a real fear. No one wants to “get it.” No one wants their loved ones to “get it.” Yet we all know that statistically it could be in our future.

According to the Alzheimer's Association Facts and Figures website page: “1 in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer's dementia.” In addition, the news isn't particularly good for women, as the page also states that “about two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women.” Ladies in particular have a right to be concerned. Perhaps our off-the-cuff remark, hoping we don't have dementia, could be more valid in our future than we'd like to recognize.

Both my grandmas were diagnosed with dementia. The disease presented itself in different ways in each of them.

My one grandma had a total personality change and became aggressive, one time even opening the door on a moving car when she insisted she wanted to get out. She often forgot simple things such as cooking her favorite recipes. She regularly misplaced items and blamed someone else for taking them. She asked about her deceased son, who had passed some 50 years ago, yet she thought he was an infant and was distraught, concerned about who was caring for him.

My grandma had word confusion, too. I'll never forget one time while preparing for a holiday social, I greeted my grandma in a fancy dress with fully done hair and makeup, about which she commented: “Even ugly girls can look nice in stupid dresses!” I know she didn't mean it. That was the mixed-up world of dementia talking. In her prime, she never would have said such a thing.

My other grandma just gradually started forgetting things. She'd mistake my husband for my boyfriend (of course she was at my wedding in 1995). She casually mentioned around a campfire one evening the striking resemblance of her daughter-in-law to another woman there, who just happened to be her daughter-in-law's twin sister (her son and daughter-in-law were married in 1989). She also got lost driving to places she had been many times before, like the dentist, an easy drive from her home. These were all startling moments when they first occurred, but as the confusion continued, it became her new normal and we all adjusted accordingly.

People experience the signs and symptoms of dementia differently and at different ages. The Alzheimer's Association website is a great resource for understanding the most common signs of dementia. It's also the perfect resource to help understand the difference between common forgetfulness at any age and cause for concern. Misplacing your keys and eventually finding them on the kitchen table where you also placed the groceries you were carrying is normal. Finding your keys in the freezer ice cube tray? Not so normal.

If you are concerned about forgetfulness, personality changes or oddities you see in yourself or a loved one, visit the Alzheimer's Association website at Their information is well organized and easy to read and understand. There you can learn about the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's as well as read about the different kinds of dementia, including Lewy Body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease dementia and others. They also offer a 24/ 7 toll-free helpline at 800-272-3900, which is especially helpful to family members who need support and guidance at any hour of the day.