Wednesday, October 25, 2017

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

By Deanna Leyh

With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, it is important to be aware of the 10 most common early signs and symptoms of dementia. Knowing these signs of dementia from the Alzheimer’s Association can help you know the differences between typical age-related changes and dementia and to be aware of possible dementia in your loved ones or even yourself. Share these signs with someone you know and help spread awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


One of the most common signs of Alzheimer's is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.



Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.



People with Alzheimer's often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game

What's a typical age-related change?

 Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.



People with Alzheimer's can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.



For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer's. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Vision changes related to cataracts.



People with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock").

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.



A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.



People with Alzheimer's may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Making a bad decision once in a while.



A person with Alzheimer's may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.


The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer's can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What's a typical age-related change?

 Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tips on How to Start the Conversation about Future Planning

By Deanna Leyh

As our loved ones get older, it’s important to plan for the future and talk to them about their legal and financial wishes. Yes, it’s important, but it’s usually the last thing that people want to talk about and deal with. So how do you actually even broach the topic and start the conversation?

Well, for starters, it’s important first to be sensitive about future planning and having that discussion. Plan ahead! Think about who all should be involved in this conversation—mom, dad, siblings, grandchildren, who? Who will take the lead on the issue? Also, think about what should be said during the conversation and how it should said. Will Mom or Dad feel like we're "ganging up on them"? Do they respond better when people are direct with them or not? Remember that this may be the first time that your loved one is thinking or talking about the future, so this conversation could help open the door for you.

So how can you go about cracking open that door? One way is to try talking about your own plans for the future. Mention how you are starting to think about completing your living will now and are wondering if your parent or sibling has too. Offer to look into a financial adviser or attorney who can help both of you. Your loved one may be more willing to get more information if you're getting it for yourself. Or you could try to ask your loved one how to find their Powers of Attorney, living wills, wills, and financial records in case of an emergency, and try to crack open the door in that respect.

Remember to try to be sensitive about your loved one’s right to make decisions for themselves. It’s important that they don’t feel like anyone else is trying to tell them the “right way” to do anything because this conversation is also about helping them figure out what their wishes are. Try to gauge how comfortable they are with future planning issues. For example, Mom may be willing to start talking about her living will and Power of Attorney, but she may not be ready yet to actually take the next step in contacting an attorney or completing the documents.

Talking about future planning is a sensitive and difficult subject, and taking the steps to fulfill your plans can take weeks, months, and possibly years. It's good not to rush your loved ones, but to try to normalize the topic because it can be scary to think about. The important thing is that you start the conversation, and hopefully these tips will make it a little easier on you and your loved ones.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2017

By Deanna Leyh

Many of us know someone whose life is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, whether they, a family member, or a friend have it, or whether they are a family caregiver or professional caregiver of someone with it. Getting involved in your local area’s upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s is a great way to draw attention to Alzheimer’s disease and to raise money and awareness for the fight against Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s support and research. There are over 600 communities nationwide that hold the event annually to further the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission of advancing care, support, and research across the world.
Pittsburgh’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is quickly approaching! With November being National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, the walk will be held on Saturday, November 4th, 2017. The Walk will take place at Stage AE, and it begins at 10am with registration beginning at 7:30am. To register for Pittsburgh’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, please visit their website at or visit to learn more about creating a team and fundraising for your local walk! Go purple with a purpose in November in support of Alzheimer’s awareness!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Stigma Around Caregiving

Contributed by Deanna Leyh

Caregiver. It can be a scary word for some people to see. For some people, they see that word and think that it means someone that has committed their life to taking care of another person and maybe someone that has “no life” of their own. Some tend to shy away from that label or adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they are a caregiver. The definition of a family caregiver according to the Family Caregiver Alliance is “any relative, partner, friend or neighbor who has a significant personal relationship with, and provides a broad range of assistance for, an older person or an adult with a chronic or disabling condition” (  The definition of a caregiver is just someone who essentially provides some assistance to another person. So why is there this stigma around using the term caregiver?

Well for some, using the term “caregiver” can be an acknowledgement that this new role they are in is real and has an impact on their life. They may just say that they only help their mother out with errands and doctor appointments but that they’re not a caregiver because it can be difficult to acknowledge that they are in this caregiving role that can affect different areas of their life. For example, some people may not acknowledge that they are a caregiver at work because they’re worried their employer might think that their caregiving role will impact their productivity or that they will be passed over for promotions. Other people may downplay their role as a caregiver to their friends because they’re worried their friends may not reach out to them as much or invite them to social events because they figure they are “too busy” caring for their loved one, when many caregivers are aching to have that social connection.  So how can we help caregivers and the community in general get over this stigma around caregiving and instead better support family caregivers?

One answer is education! In order for people to understand more about what it means to be a caregiver and to start to break down that stigma is to educate people that caregiving is something we will all be affected by in some manner. One great resource to learn more about what caregiving actually means and what caregivers need is the Family Caregiver Alliance at

Also, keep an eye out for any friends, family, or co-workers that help others out with things like medications, preparing meals, cleaning, running errands, mowing their lawn, accompanying them to doctor appointments, etc. Chances are that they’re a caregiver! Ask them about their caregiving role, and if they’re leery about using the word “caregiver”, try inquiring about what’s holding them back from saying that they’re a caregiver? Start the conversation so that we can work to end the caregiving stigma!

Offer your help and assistance to them! Try asking them if there’s anything that you can do to help them out or to make things easier for them, i.e. “I’m going out for groceries—what can I pick up for you while I’m there?” or “I’m mowing the yard tomorrow, so why don’t I come over and mow you and your mom’s yard too?” Or just offer your emotional support and let them know that you are a safe person for them to talk to about their caregiving situation.

The littlest act of kindness can go a long way for caregivers, and the more that we talk about caregiving, the less stigma there is surrounding it.