Lola, Why Is Your Toothbrush in the Freezer?

Manila Bulletin, March 29, 2002 | Go to article overview

Lola, Why Is Your Toothbrush in the Freezer?


Byline: Jose Pujalte, Jr., M.D.

"Oh to be seventy again."

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) French statesman. Remark on his eightieth birthday, noticing a pretty girl in the Champs Elys?es. Ego 3

IN 1906, Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist studied the brain of a woman who died after years of progressive confusion, memory loss, and mental deterioration. He found it odd that the cerebral cortex of the woman, the part of the brain for reasoning and memory, was a knot of tangles and plaques. Alzheimer thought that this was responsible for the woman's dementia. In later years, this feared malady of old age was called Alzheimer's disease or Alzheimer's type dementia. In American adults, it is the fourth leading cause of death after heart disease, cancer, and stroke. In Filipinos, we gloss over the fact that it is devastating to our elderly and just call them ulyanin or senile, never considering that the disease is due to degeneration of brain tissue.

Defined, Alzheimer's is progressive destruction of the brain affecting people over 65 years old. It is marked by profound mental decline with deterioration of memory, comprehension, and speech. It is fatal.

Risk factors. While not everyone who grows old gets Alzheimer's, increasing age is in itself the main risk factor. Other factors to are family history, genetics, being female (13% higher than males), and the environment (Japanese who migrated to Hawaii had a higher incidence of the disease than native Japanese).

10 warning signs.

The Alzheimer's Association lists ten signs and symptoms of early disease.

* Memory loss affecting job skills - Lola has forgotten how to fry bacon.

* Difficulty in using simple words or saying incomprehensible phrases - Lola cannot even say " I want to go to the bathroom."

* Forgetting time and place - Lola feels lost standing outside the house.

* Loss of judgment - exhibited strikingly as inappropriate dressing - Lola has just worn her underwear like a veil.

* Problems with abstract thinking - Lola has forgotten the number 7.

* Misplacing things - Lola used her toothbrush but stored it in the freezer.

* Changes in mood or behavior - Lola cries and laughs in a matter of minutes.

* Changes in personality - Lola has become paranoid and will not leave her room.

* Loss of initiative - Lola is no longer interested in seeing her grandchildren.

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