Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Woodsonian Informational Thoughts on Thursday: Recognizing Dementia and How Do I Know if I have it?


  • Forget you
  • Insist on going home when they’re sitting in their own living rooms
  • Argue that they haven’t eaten when they cleaned their plates fifteen minutes ago
  • No longer understand how to use a fork,

Subtle changes can alert you.

REPEATING- They tell the same story, or ask the same question over and over without realizing the rerun

CHANGE IN HYGIENE -People who were fashion plates, dress poorly, don’t bathe, or wear the same, soiled clothing every day.

SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL/LOSS OF INTEREST –Mom stopped going to her weekly card game. She tells you she’s tired of “those old biddies,” but actually, she can no longer follow game strategy; her partners are frustrated.  Sometimes, “I don’t want to” actually means “I can’t.”

LOSING SKILLS- My Mother was the macaroni and cheese queen for all family gatherings, but although she insisted that she used her same secret recipe, it just wasn’t as good. A master’s level educator was unable to count out the right amount of change at a toll booth. BE ESPECIALLY SUSPICIOUS if people change the way they manage money: an increase in late fees, shut-off notices, notices, bounced checks, responding to scams ( by mail, telephone, or in person,) strange purchases, like $25, 000 in electric beds.

UNUSUAL BEHAVIORS- Did Mom just put the turkey in the dishwasher?

INSISTING THAT OTHERS STEAL. This is so painful for caregivers. You would never steal from Dad, but he insists that you’ve taken money, household objects, etc. His brain is broken; he doesn’t realize that he can’t remember what he did with them.

FREQUENT, STRANGE PHONE CALLS- They call 911, or family members several times each day and at odd hours; they are sure that someone is trying to get into the house, has been in the house, or is still there. I wish all police departments used a protocol that generates alerts to with emergency contacts, or the Department on Aging after a certain number of these calls. All too often, these reports just pile up without anyone recognizing a pattern.

GETTING LOST-   An executive was frantic because she didn’t know where she was. She was able to call her husband and describe a landmark. He found her two blocks from their home of 20 years, in front of a store where she shopped regularly.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition in which families (even the seniors themselves) know something is wrong; people find it harder to perform their activities of daily living, but they can still get the job done. Although mental status testing may not be completely normal, there aren’t enough abnormalities to diagnose dementia. Some, but not all MCI progresses to full dementia.

In 2012, Dr. Mladin Golubic (Cleveland Clinic) gave and explanation that can reassure you and help you recognize the difference between what my Aunt Will called CRS (Can’t Remember S***,) MCI, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD)


  • CRS
  • MCI
    • WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR? Oh yeah, my keys.
  • AD
    • WHAT’S A KEY?

This is reassuring, but if you have any concerns about your brain, or anyone else’s, get a thorough physical examination, mental status testing, and perhaps, a referral to a neuropsychologist, like Dr. Pliskin ( see my 11/5 blogpost.)

NEXT WEEK : Woodsonian Inspirational Musings on Monday: Juggling and trying to drop only the rubber balls. Balancing dementia care, work, and other relationships

Guest Wisdom on Wednesday: Beverly Kimmons (Alzheimer’s Assn.,) guest blogs on Caregiver Resources

Woodsonian Informational Thoughts on Thursday : How Do People Die of Dementia and Testing for the Disease

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