Maybe you forgot to pay a bill or two last month. Maybe your mom or dad gets disoriented on routine trips to or from the store. Are these symptoms of normal aging? Or early signs of dementia? To maximize the benefits of early detection, it’s absolutely critical to find out as soon as possible. “Early dementia detection gives us a chance to process the diagnosis, benefit from intervention, participate in clinical trials, and make lifestyle changes that can help delay disease progression,” says Kelly Carroll, Director of Community Relations at YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens, a senior living community offering Independent Living with Supportive Services, Assisted Living and Memory Care in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “Early detection also gives us a chance to research care options, document our financial, legal and healthcare wishes, and educate ourselves and families about changing symptoms and needs,” she says. Normal Aging vs. Memory Loss: Spot the Differences Unfortunately, dementia’s warning signs are often dismissed as symptoms of normal aging, robbing people who actually have early-stage dementia of the opportunity to take proactive measures before irreversible brain damage occurs. So, what does dementia look like? The Alzheimer’s Association identifies ten early signs and symptoms: 1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life 2. Challenges in planning or solving problems 3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks 4. Confusion with time or place 5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationship 6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, difficulty having conversations 7. Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them 8. Decreased or poor judgment 9. Withdrawal from work or social activities 10. Changes in mood and personality For comparison, typical age-related changes might include: 1. Making a poor decision once in a while 2. Missing a monthly payment 3. Temporarily forgetting which day it is 4. Occasionally forgetting which word to use 5. Losing things from time to time Schedule a Screening as Soon as Signs Appear Less than half of primary care physicians surveyed by the Alzheimer’s Association reported routinely testing patients over 65 for cognitive issues – despite 10% of people over 65 having Alzheimer’s disease – so it’s important to request a screening. Before the appointment, take 10 to 15 minutes to complete the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), an at-home cognitive and memory performance evaluation that will help your doctor better understand your concerns. While SAGE itself is not a diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease or other cognition impairment disorders, the results can help your doctor know if further evaluation is necessary. After the Diagnosis: Delaying Stage Progression Food for Thought Protect your neurons with a brain-healthy diet featuring these five key superfoods: blueberries, peanuts, fatty fish, avocados and dark chocolate. Go Mediterranean. When people in Mediterranean regions showed to have less incidence of heart disease, and had longer lifespans, scientists took note. And, since they discovered that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, memory impairment researchers took a closer look at the Mediterranean diet, too. The Mediterranean Diet Includes: • Daily consumption of brightly colored fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs • Moderate portions of dairy products • Limited intake of red meat Physical Exercise Research continues to show that physical activity is a terrific brain boost. In fact, some studies say 150 minutes of physical exercise – including cardio and resistance workouts – a week can reduce older adults’ risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%. Brain Aerobics Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, President & Medical Director of the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation™, is a memory loss prevention and treatment pioneer. Dr. Khalsa recommends at least 20 minutes of brain exercises, three times a week. “To achieve brain regeneration,” Dr. Khalsa has said, “I have discovered that you have to do more than just keep your brain healthy with nutritional therapy, physical exercise, stress management, and appropriate prescription medications. You also need to carefully nurture your brain with vigorous mental exercise, what I call brain aerobics.” In order for an activity to be considered brain aerobics, Dr. Khalsa says it must: • Engage your attention • Involve more than one of your senses • Break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way Powerful brain-building mental exercises include reading, writing, playing board games, discussing current events, and doing crossword puzzles. For more information and fun brain aerobics ideas, download the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation’s brochure, The Power of Brain Aerobics: Maximize Your Memory. More Recommendations for Progression Delay: • Avoid excessive alcohol intake and smoking • Engage in social activities on a regular basis • Address depression • Get eight hours of restful sleep every day • Get regular screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure and other types of heart disease • Manage stress The Promising Future of Early Detection Early intervention is so important that significant research is underway to predict and prevent the disease years – even decades – before the first symptoms surface. Three exciting new ways early dementia could be predicted in humans are through blood tests, brain scans and eye exams. Until dementia is completely preventable, there’s YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens. Discover the inspiring memory care and brain-healthy nutrition and programs residents enjoy every day. To schedule your visit or speak with our dementia care experts, give us a call at 561-214-8549. Inspired • Engaged • Fulfilled Offering Independent Living with Supportive Services, Assisted Living and Memory Care, YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens was designed specifically with residents in mind. We know your life is shaped by family, friends, hobbies, passions and more, so we’ve created a community where you can enjoy comfort, independence and engagement, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define your own lifestyle. Here, we shape each thing we do around you, from your routines and interests to your choices and preferences, to create an inspiring lifestyle that fits your life perfectly. Because we are completely shaped around you, our residents get more of out their lives. With exceptional care delivered by a dedicated and compassionate team and a fulfilling lifestyle full of choice and convenience, residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible. Each day holds something new for residents. Whether they are enjoying our exclusive activities, learning something new or simply engaging in our YourStory programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. Do you enjoy making new discoveries and trying new hobbies, simply want to continue the hobbies you love or enjoy some time to yourself to relax? At YourLife™ of Palm Beach Gardens, the choice is up to you. Call us at 561-214-8549 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.