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Aging Wisely October 2007 - Aging Wisely

Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Sundowner’s, Old Age: What is it???


There is a great deal of confusion, not only in the public but even in the medical community, about memory loss and various types of dementia. We get a lot of questions from family members who are confused and unsure what exactly is affecting their loved one and what to expect. Here is some straightforward information to help you.

Is it Alzheimer’s or Dementia? Dementia is a general term used to describe many different diseases. Dementia is the syndrome of symptoms such as memory loss and decreasing ability to handle the daily functions of life. Dementia is not an early form of Alzheimer’s or some less serious disease, it is simply a catch-all term that describes Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, and other specific diseases. It is frequently used because people may not know have a specific diagnosis yet or due to the fact that many of the symptoms are common in any type of dementia. Because professionals often interchange the terms for general discussion purposes, people have become confused about the distinctions. Types of dementia may include Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body Disease, Pick’s Disease, Parkinson’s related dementia, and Vascular Dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type, and Vascular Dementia is second most common. Some people have a mix of types of dementia.

What’s normal? Normal aging can cause some minor changes in memory or learning, but not in a way that affects functioning. If you know someone who repeats questions frequently, has trouble following their daily routine, frequently cannot find the right word, or is disoriented to time and place, these are signs of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia—not normal aging. It is important to get a good diagnosis, because there are some reversible causes of these symptoms. Depression, medication misuse or side effects, thyroid problems, and vitamin deficiencies can all present symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. It is important to get a thorough medical workup if you identify these symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association offers a great fact sheet that explains symptoms of Alzheimer’s and compares them to “what’s normal”:

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition which has many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but is not severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. Research indicates people with MCI are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but not all go on to have the disease. Medications may help ward off progression, and it is important that if someone you know exhibits these symptoms, they be evaluated and followed by medical professionals.

Vascular dementia develops when impaired blood flow to parts of the brain deprives cells of food and oxygen. This may be most obvious after a major stroke (post stroke dementia) or as a result of “mini strokes” (also known as multi-infarct dementia). Vascular dementia may show more sudden progressions, or occur in “steps” as a result of these vascular incidents, rather than a more steady progression as is seen in Alzheimer’s. Someone diagnosed with vascular dementia may benefit from the same medications and preparations as someone with Alzheimer’s, but would additionally need their vascular health monitored (blood pressure, proper medications, etc.).

Sundowner’s Syndrome or Sundowning describes a typical pattern of behavior present in many people with Alzheimer’s and some of the other forms of dementia. Individuals typically exhibit increased confusion, agitation, and wandering in the late afternoon and early evening hours. See our article on sundowner’s syndrome

Myths about Alzheimer’s Disease:

Help for Alzheimer’s Caregivers: Aging Wisely is a good place to start if you have concerns that a loved one might have some form of dementia, or if your loved one has been diagnosed. A care manager can help in the early stages by coordinating medical professionals, securing a good diagnostic workup, walking you through what to expect and options, and planning ahead. Often, families have trouble because their loved one does not wish to acknowledge there is a problem and they do not know how to get them to accept help, or even go to a doctor for an evaluation. A care manager can be invaluable in strategizing ways to work through these challenges. Our services are customized to work with just these types of situations.

As the disease progresses, your care manager can be your caregiving coach and resource partner. Our job is to anticipate needs and issues and help you plan, as well as to be a sounding board to your frustrations and concerns. There are many issues that may arise: the need for in home help, wandering, driving concerns, knowing when it may be time to consider a care facility, navigating the Medicare and insurance maze, respite care—we’re here to help with them all.

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Special Needs Trust Seminar Part 2


Stetson Special Needs Trust seminar

Aging Wisely will be exhibitng at this conference.  For more information, see

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Special Needs Trust Seminar


Stetson Special Needs Trust seminar 10/17 &18

Aging Wisely is proud to be exhibiting at this conference.  For more information, visit:

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Women in Estate Planning Luncheon


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Stetson Tampa Law Center

By invitation only, contact Shannon Martin for more information.

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