Answering the difficult questions

by Lorrie Davis McDonald


November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – and when it comes to Alzheimer’s, there’s plenty to be aware of. When I travel the country, speaking at events and promoting my book, I inevitably get asked, “How do you know if someone is showing early signs of dementia?” The most obvious sign is forgetfulness, of course, but as I discuss in my book, there were many other signs prior to my mother-in-law’s diagnosis.

On the other hand, don’t let the stigma and the fear of Alzheimer’s overwhelm you to the point that you’re diagnosing a loved one at the first sign of a lost pair of keys. Keep things in perspective by remembering there are many physical (and emotional) reasons that people seemingly lose their short-term memory. A good, thorough physical exam will help rule out simple things such as an infection. If a loved one seems resistant to a physical, but you suspect he or she is becoming more than just “forgetful,” before you approach them about it, try keeping a journal.

I began writing down all the questionable comments and actions as my best attempt to get my mother-in-law the help I knew she deserved.

We all knew something was going on with her memory, but this journal became invaluable when I finally convinced my husband that she needed to see a neurologist. I had detailed accounts that spanned nearly a year. I often forewarn people that most family members will be deep in denial about the illness, and that, believe it or not, this is totally normal. Denial, however, does not change the diagnosis.

Valuable book for caregivers of those facing Alzheimer's
Valuable book for caregivers of those facing Alzheimer’s

To learn more about determining if your loved one might be developing dementia, visit to order Blue, Baseball, Virginia – The Journey of an Alzheimer’s Patient and Caregiver – A Journey of Humor, Help, and Hope! Contact her directly at




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