“Most of us,” says Still Alice
author Lisa Genova in this PBS NewsHour interview
, “when we can’t find our keys, it actually isn’t a memory problem, it’s an attention problem. You’re doing five things at once and you never actually paid attention to where you put them in the first place.”
The author of the bestseller, adapted for the screen and made into the popular movie that won Julianne Moore an Oscar for her portrayal of Alice, goes on to explain how the experience of losing a set of keys would be different for someone with early onset Alzheimer’s. In that case, “you can’t find the keys and when you do, you don’t remember what they’re for. Or you find them and they’re in the refrigerator or somewhere strange.”
Ms. Genova, who is also a neuroscientist, adds that while family members should be watchful for symptoms of Alzheimer’s, they are often reluctant. Usually, Genova explains, it is the person with Alzheimer’s that drives the decision to get help. “I think people surrounding someone with Alzheimer’s, the people I’ve seen and had experience with, don’t push the process forward. They’re happier to retreat and be in denial or look the other way. No one wants this to happen to anyone that they love,” she says.
Still, the signs of onset are present for those who know how to spot them, according to Ms. Genova. Experiences like getting lost in familiar surroundings and speech that is sudden and out of context to the situation at hand might both be symptoms of early onset. “And the words just drop out. Something that’s so out of the norm for you, is usually when the conversation starts to get real. And for someone young, it’s usually not a straight and narrow path to diagnosis because there are other things that can cause dementia and memory impairment and cognitive problems and you want to rule those treatable causes out first,” she explains.
Want to gain more knowledge in recognizing and understanding Alzheimer’s/dementia? Look to these helpful CPI posts: