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Posted October 25, 2008

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Care Resources: Is Memory Problem at Earlier Age Sign of Alzheimer's?

Q. I have a 21-year-old daughter whose paternal grandma has Alzheimer's. Also, her paternal great grandma, great aunt and great uncle all passed away due to Alzheimer's. I have now learned that one of my uncles has Alzheimer's and that another one of my uncles had symptoms of this disease. As a mother, I am very concerned. I want to know the best first step to take, as my daughter is now experiencing "memory" issues.

Dawn, Detroit, Michigan.

A.  Although Alzheimer's dementia can run in families and start "early," in those cases "early" is in a person’s 50s or 60s, so I doubt very much that your daughter has Alzheimer's.  That being said, memory problems in young adults can be a sign of other problems such as depression or anxiety, head trauma, stress, or effects of medications. The best first step is to have your daughter see her primary care doctor. If she is agreeable to you coming along, that will be helpful because you can tell the doctor your concerns. If your doctor is not able to help and the memory problems persist, you should have her see a neurologist.  

This answer is provided by Dr. Vivian Argento, a trained geriatrician and member of the geriatric medical team at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Dr. Argento is an expert in memory and medical problems affecting the elderly and serves as a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She’s also a consultant both in and out of hospitals and cares for patients in various locations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in their homes via a house calls program. Dr. Argento can be reached at pvarge@bpthosp.org.

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