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Know the Signs: Dementia: March 24, 2011

Memory loss is often the first inclining. "One of the frequent statements I hear from family members is that, 'I noticed in telephone calls that mom or dad is starting to repeat themselves and tell me the same thing," says Dr. Kelly O'Neal, a neuropsychologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

But memory skills are only a small piece of this complex puzzle. Dr. O'Neal lists other problem areas. "Their short term memory, aspects of long term memory, receptive language, the ability to understand written or verbal communication, expressive language skills, how well they can communicate their thoughts."

How does the parent handle day to day living? That can signal something. "A history of falls in the house is a pretty good indicator that something needs to be done. Somebody needs to step up and take a closer look at how mom or dad is doing in the home."

Lee Memory Care and its team of specialists will do a comprehensive test to see if there is something going on. All of the members then put together an assessment. "You have a lot of experience sitting around at a table discussing the individual client's profile of scores on cognitive measures, physical measures, perhaps brain imaging studies."

Changes in mood or personality or withdraw from social activities can also be signs of dementia.

If you notice a loved one experiencing one or a combination of these symptoms, their primary care physician can assess to see if an appointment with the memory clinic is necessary.