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Dear Abby: Alzheimer’s and other dementias are a growing epidemic in America. Frequently, co-workers are the ones who notice a decline in functioning. Could you please remind your readers to speak up to a family member when they see their co-workers struggling? My 62-year-old husband was recently diagnosed, and I have since learned that his co-workers spotted his troubles long before I did at home. Had I been informed, he could possibly have retired on disability and have Medicare today (which he does not now). Additionally, he would have known to have structured his retirement to include survivorship on his pension, which he did not. I realize his co-workers were in a difficult spot, so I’m not blaming them, but I’m hoping a few words from you might get the word out to others: Friends, when you notice someone is declining, please speak up.

– Donna in Virginia

Dear Donna: I’m sorry about your husband’s diagnosis. Although there have been warnings that it was coming for years, the Alzheimer’s epidemic is here now and millions more families will be touched by this progressive – and ultimately fatal – disease unless its course can be altered.

As you have so poignantly stated, there are benefits to the early detection of Alzheimer’s, including the opportunity to take advantage of available treatments, leverage resources in the workplace, plan for the future and seek help. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, knowing the warning signs of Alzheimer’s and speaking up when you notice them are CRITICAL to early detection and receiving the best possible care. While this may be an uncomfortable conversation, if you notice these signs in anyone – including a colleague – it is extremely important to share your concerns with the family or with someone in human resources. The person should be evaluated by a physician. A doctor will be able to determine whether the symptoms are caused by Alzheimer’s disease or something else. To learn the 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/10signs or call 1-800-272-3900.

Dilemma over decorations

Dear Abby: One of my neighbors insisted on giving me some handcrafted Christmas decorations that are hideous. I have never been big on decorating the outside of my home for the holidays, but when I do, I have my own that I like much better. I know she expects me to display her items and will be all bent out of shape when she sees I haven’t. Is there a diplomatic way to avoid hurt feelings?

– Florida Reader

Dear Reader: Not really. So hang one or two of them in an inconspicuous place when you decorate for the holidays, so they will be “lost” among the items you prefer to display, or refrain from decorating this year.