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Navigational Signs of Alzheimer’s

As my mother died of complications of Alzheimer’s, I am always on the look-out for information related to this awful disease.

An article from Women’s Day came to my attention as it talks about how we often miss early signs of the disease. I know that our family did, and I have created a timeline trying to track when my mother first began showing the disease.

In the article by Maria Carter, “problems navigating new surroundings crop up before memory loss, and long before any clinical diagnosis of the disease, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.”

” Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis asked study participants to use patterns and landmarks to make their way through a maze on a computer,” the Huffington Post reports. “The individuals were divided into three groups: early-stage Alzheimer's patients, undiagnosed people with early markers for Alzheimer's (considered "preclinical Alzheimer's"), and a control group of clinically

normal people. The study showed that individuals with preclinical Alzheimer's had more difficulty learning the locations of objects.”

"These findings suggest that the wayfinding difficulties experienced by people with preclinical Alzheimer's disease are in part related to trouble acquiring the environmental information," said senior author Denise Head, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences.

While Head cautioned that the study has limitations, she explained that navigational tasks that assess cognitive mapping strategy "could represent a powerful tool for detecting the very earliest Alzheimer's disease-related changes in cognition."

I know that Mom got scared of driving long before her disease was diagnosed. She used to drive all over the county and state with no trouble and then not long after breaking her hip which she recovered from quickly and seemingly completely. Yet shortly thereafter she became fearful and normal trips became problematic. This article explained to me why this might have been.

As people grow older, I find they don’t want to go to doctors, but it never hurts to have them check. And, don’t rely on their primary care doctor. Get them to a neurologist or geriatric doctor. It’s just a check and it may help someone you love to live longer without the onset of more serious symptoms.

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