We all forget things sometimes. But as we get older, it gets harder to distinguish between common forgetfulness that comes with aging, and actual dementia. 

Our Arbor dementia expert, Susan Robbins, sits down with Melissa Lee to discuss the topic of the upcoming webinar Senior Living LIVE: Dementia or Normal Aging? As a preview for the full webinar, scheduled for September 29, Susan compares dementia and forgetfulness, and gives some signs to look for and when to see medical help. 

For more information, watch the recording below. And make sure to sign up for the full webinar later this month for more helpful information about dementia. 


Video Transcript 

- Hello everyone, and welcome into Senior Living LIVE. My name is Melissa, and today I am joined by the wonderful Susan Robbins. Susan, good to see you, how are you?

- I am doing great. Thank you for asking. I hope you are, too.

- I am doing great on this rainy afternoon, but you're bringing a little bit of sunshine to not only my life, but to, I hope a few others who will be watching this as we preview your upcoming webinar, that we will see September 29th at 3:00 PM, Eastern time, "Dementia or Normal Aging." And of course there's a big difference between the two.

- Yes.

- When some of it may feel the same, and we're going to break that down in that webinar. We hope all of you can join us. You have a lot of great information and you'll stick around in that webinar to answer everyone's questions. So you'll certainly want to join us September 29th at 3:00. Now, Susan, as we just said, we forget things, right? When we're kids, we forget our homework. When we are old enough to drive, we leave the car keys behind or we can't find them. So how do we know that this is normal? As opposed to maybe what's not so normal?

- Well, normal aging, you do forget things, like you said when you were a kid, but you also forget things all through life. Many of us have left our sunglasses on top of our head and we're looking for them. And when you find them, in your earlier years in life, you kind of laugh it off. And it's a little embarrassing but not a big deal. But as we age, sometimes that creates fear because the stigma that's attached to having any type of dementia, Alzheimer's being the most common, but I'm fearful. But I'm going to relieve that it's normal aging. We do forget things, we're busy. It's like walking around, looking for your keys. We've all done it. And they're right there in your hand. Or you've looked in your purse. Those are normal aging processes.

- As we do age, when is it becoming more of a problem? When should we start to become concerned?

- Well, one of the things is use the same two examples, sunglasses on my head. But if I pointed out or a loved one points out, "Well, they're on your head." "Well, I know that I was just seeing "if you were paying attention" becomes more of the response as opposed to, "I can't believe I did that." It's the reaction from the person is a sign that something's not quite right. Did I really get mad? I know my keys are in my hand. I was just seeing if you were paying any attention. I find excuses for things that you used to just find humorous or maybe embarrassing depending on your personality, but your change in response to things is one of those things that makes you really be concerned.

- So if someone's watching this or they watch your webinar and they start to notice some of these things about themselves or about loved ones, what's sort of the next step that they can take? So, we need to start to watch for more things going on. Some of those things, 'cause personality changes is one of the things. But day to day life becomes more difficult for somebody living with dementia. So we want to watch out for things. If you go to your loved one's house and the refrigerator has a lot of expired food in it. Now that's not to say that we all haven't had something turned green in the back of the refrigerator. But when the majority of the things are that way, or they become extremely upset with you if you try to throw something out or even that you've pointed it out. It becomes an embarrassing to them and they get frustrated and angry and, "I'm gonna eat that, what's wrong with you. "It's still good." Or you noticed they're not taking their medications or they need help putting it in the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday thing. Many times, people that's okay to use the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday thing. That's normal aging, especially if you're taking multiple things. But if you can't fill the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday thing yourself, or a loved one is not able to do it correctly without your assistance. That might be a sign that there's some memory loss. And some attention to detail deficits going on, which are early signs of dementia. And you may need some intervention there to help them.

- Yeah, what's sort of their age range we're looking at here where people start to see signs and those signs are related to maybe early onset dementia?

- About at 75. It can happen, you can start to see things, we are seeing people younger and younger, front temporal lobe dementias happen earlier. And safety becomes a big issue with those folks. But 75 is usually the start of where dementia starts to really affect someone's life, but it can be much earlier.

- Gotcha. You gave some great examples, Susan, of sort of things that we can really look for without even having to speak to the person. You can go look in the refrigerator. You can look at the, again, their medication. Are they taking the medication? I know in our earlier chat, you mentioned checking the mail. What are some other sort of checklist items that somebody can take with them and go to see their loved one if they fear this is early onset dementia?

- Well, like you brought back up, are they paying their bills? Are they getting their mail? Or is it just cluttered all over the house? Normally somebody is very neat and all of a sudden their home is not so neat. There's little piles of things. Hygiene is a big one. You know, I may not remember to shower because I got dressed and I think I've already showered. So I won't shower. Or I don't want to go get my hair done. Or I insist on going in it done two or three times a week. It's a change in my normal patterns are what you want to look for. And maybe my clothes don't match anymore. You know, I'm not dressing. I was always very neat. And now all of a sudden, nothing matches. And I just don't care. Whereas before, when I knew you were coming over, now you might catch me that way, any of us, but if I know you're coming and I haven't made the effort to be presentable, and that was always how I behaved in the past, that's important. And very short tempered when you ask questions. I can become very overwhelmed easily and become agitated when that happens.

- That's a great, great checklist. I mean, you gave, so far, you've given at least five things that you can start to look for with a loved one. So if you start to notice that you're checking all the boxes here, what are some solutions that you could implement literally right now?

- Well, you want to look at keeping that person safe to start with. So you're gonna have to help them, but you need to be their friend, not their boss. Because it's a checklist for you. But if you go in with a checklist for them, it's gonna create agitation and frustration. They need more oversight at this point, many times finding, you know, an assisted living where they're living with more people, there's hands-on care, meals are being prepared, medications are taken care of. And then when you have your time with them, it can be spent in a calmer, enjoyable way. Instead of you having to work on that checklist to do things to help them. But in the home in the immediate is not to argue with somebody with dementia. You know, if you notice all those things in the refrigerator, what you need to do is go to the grocery store and bring some healthy things in and replace them quietly. Not just go in, "You can't eat this. "You can't eat this." Because no adult likes to be corrected. And if I've got dementia, I'm gonna become combative or angry or withdrawn because you've hurt my feelings. And I'm struggling to stay that adult that I know I am. And that adult is still in there. I don't lose my feelings and my emotions.

- You made one little point there in that answer. And that was perhaps looking at a community or a place where someone can help. When is it time to start looking for outside help, Susan?

- Before a crisis happens. Before mom doesn't take her medicine. Before she gets lost and goes outside, or has an argument with a neighbor because of the dementia and not putting things together. You want your loved ones safe. And it's much easier to transition to assisted living with other people that are your cognitive peers. Because in the early stages of dementia, you can make deep friendships. People living with dementia are attracted to people that are on the same dementia cognitive level that they are because they don't have to keep their guard up in front of people, with that person. So they become really good friends, so they can make those friendships and those bonds. They still make them, even in the later stages, if you've been, somebody has been home longer, but it's a much deeper level. It also gives the staff a chance to really get to know your loved one and what their habits are and what their specific needs are, so that they can make that transition more comfortable for them.

- Sure, and again, all of this is a preview for more of what's to come with your webinar, September 29th. Susan Robbins, you will be our guest speaker, 3:00 Eastern time. And again, if you're joining us for that webinar, Susan will be available to answer all of your questions. And if you happen to catch part of it and want to watch all of it, you can check out the archives on www.seniorlivinglive.com. So Susan, we really appreciate your time today. And certainly looking forward to this webinar, which I know we'll have a lot of excellent information, and will certainly help those who are watching. Thank you so much.

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