Elderly Family Members Believe Memory Problems Inevitable

Elderly people believe memory problems are an inevitable part of aging and that nothing can be done about them, according to a new study released at the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders.

Some elderly individuals dealt with their memory problems by ignoring them or by practicing memory recall, according to the study's author, Perla Werner, Ph.D., department of gerontology, University of Haifa, Israel.

Evidence has suggested that the onset of Alzheimer's disease is preceded by mild cognitive impairment, an early phase of lost cognitive and memory functioning. Although no treatment has been approved yet to prevent or manage mild cognitive impairment, the study noted that its timely diagnosis can help delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer's.

By conducting extensive interviews with 79 elderly people, Werner examined their perception about memory problems and their decisions for seeking help.

Werner said a considerable lag exists between the first symptoms of memory deterioration and diagnosis. She reports researchers attribute this lag to the difficulty elderly people and their family caregivers have with differentiating memory problems in normal aging from the signs of Alzheimer's.

Werner hopes her study will help identify how to better educate elderly people and healthcare providers about detecting memory problems early.

"Not every individual who has mild cognitive impairment will develop Alzheimer's," said Jennie Ward Robinson, Ph.D., director of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer's Association. "But significant memory problems should be a signal to consult a doctor. Early detection can result in better quality of life, for those with the disease as well as their caregivers."

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