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Is your friend behaving strangely?

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April 22nd, 2014

When I wrote the book Dr. Ruth’s Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver, doing the research taught me a lot about this disease and the care of older people in general. One issue that may complicate treatment in older patients is denial. When younger people run into a health issue, they want to do everything they can to restore their health because they feel they have “their whole life in front of them.” While the same can be said of seniors, some may opt to “give up the fight.” And one way of doing that is by denying, to others and to themselves, that anything is wrong.

The biggest problem with this attitude is that as time goes by, treatments that might have been effective may no longer be. This is true even for Alzheimer’s. Although at present there is no cure, there are drugs that can slow the progress if administered early enough. But that won’t happen if someone who is having some possible indications of Alzheimer’s decides to brush them aside.

Don’t ignore the signs

What if you notice that a dear friend is behaving strangely? He or she is acting out of character, for example, refusing to go out for your weekly lunch and cutting short phone calls after a minute or so. And when you ask if anything is wrong, the answer is an emphatic “No.” What should you do, walk away or take action? 

Don’t ignore these types of changes. Be more insistent and alert your friend’s family members to what you’ve noticed. You might even be able to spot changes, like the inability to play cards during your weekly games, that the family couldn’t. If you corroborate their own doubts, maybe that will be enough to lead to life-saving medical intervention for your friend. Imagine how bad you’d feel if you kept silent compared to how good you’ll feel playing a role in improving your friend’s health.

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