Health Info & Resources for Seniors
“It's very clear that people worry about memory loss,” confirms Dr. Catherine Glew with an empathetic look, eyes gazing into the distance and seemingly recalling the hundreds of patients and families that she has seen. Dr. Catherine Glew, a physician at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), is the Chief of Geriatric Medicine at the 17th Street hospital.
Dr. Glew’s anecdotal evidence confirms what I have known for years as publisher of Lifestyles over 50. Generally speaking, baby boomers do not spend much time thinking or learning about diseases that they could be susceptible to like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and others.
The attitude seems to be ambivalent and accepting of an unfortunate but inevitable fact of life. The only health topic that consistently incites fear and grabs attention, as evidenced by reader feedback and engagement with our articles and online content, is the thought of losing one’s memory.
Fortunately, local families have a resource in the Fleming Memory Center located at LVHN’s 17th and Chew location, formerly known as the Center for Healthy Aging. Recently renovated, the Fleming Memory Center provides comprehensive Geriatric assessments to people over the age of sixty five and specialize in the care and treatment of memory impairment, dementia, depression and anxiety, and behavioral disturbances. Additionally we evaluate conditions specific to the 65+ population such as falls and dizziness, frailty, medication management and provide preventive care recommendations.
Normal Aging vs. Dementia
“Finding memory loss early in the process is key, but only half of dementia is diagnosed recognized by medical professionals,” reveals Glew. This is attributed to the lack of training and awareness in the medical community about dementia. As memory issues become more common and research unfolds, physicians are more proactive about dementia screening in patients.
Identifying memory loss can be difficult, as it does not manifest itself in the outward symptoms that other diseases and physical ailments do. Fortunately, Medicare now includes a new cognitive screening for seniors. This said, Dr. Glew explains that not all memory loss is attributed to dementia. In typical aging, the cognitive function that tends to fail is the retrieval process.
The ability to recall information can be quick one moment and delayed in the next. The information is still available but just not accessible ‘on-demand.’ This is commonly referred to as a “senior moment”. Another natural memory failure is forgetting the details about repetitive actions or routines. Losing keys is normal as an individual frequently comes and goes and forgets where they set their keys down.
Dr. Glew also shares that, “Some forms of memory dysfunction or delirium are reversible. These are typically attributed to cognition being altered by medication, stress, and depression.” On occasion these symptoms can persist over weeks and even months and masquerade as dementia, but with a change in medication, lifting of depression or reduction of stress levels cognition may return to normal. True dementia cannot be reversed.
If you or a loved is struggling with memory loss, identifying its cause is best done by medical experts, like those at the Fleming Memory Center.
Who Comes to Fleming Memory Center?
Dr. Glew states that many individuals who come to the Center notice that their memory is “not quite right”, but more common is the case where individuals are brought in by families who noticed changes.
The change may be in cognition, depression, mood swings and other such issues. “Common behavioral issues may include anything from excessive sleep, disengagement from social activities, general apathy, and the piling up of mail, dirty dishes and other accumulation around the house,” shares Dr. Glew. “Behavior issues are typically strong indications of the onset of dementia.”
It is not only family that notices the changes, it is common for an individual’s doctor to take note of the changes and refer the individual to the Center.
The Fleming Memory Center prides itself in treating both the patient and caregiver. Those with dementia will experience dramatic changes and limitations in their life, many of which require the assistance of family members to step in and address on a daily basis. “Caregiving is a vital role for a loved one with dementia,” reveals Cara Scheetz, director of Fleming Memory Center. “It is also a tiresome, frustrating and unrelenting task. We do what we can to educate caregivers and give them the resources that they need to provide the best care for their loved one.”
Caring for the patient and the family means that there are always four out of fourteen physicians and nurse practitioners at the Center during the week. They also perform nursing home and hospital visits. There is also a memory support team that includes a social worker and patient liaison. Consultations, one on one and family sessions, are available as well as access to the resource center of books, videos, information, support groups and education sessions.
Dealing with dementia is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Scheetz advises families to “embrace the person that their loved one has become and not mourn the person whom they lost.” Scheetz also encourages people to plan for their health care and aging issues early while they are still healthy to have a contingency plan in place for the “what-ifs” of life. This makes everything easier for all. Things like executing the power of attorney cannot be done once there is a dementia diagnosis.
To learn about Fleming Memory Center call 610-969-3390 or visit LVHN.org