14 Changes That Could Signal Concern

This is a reprint of an article posted on the HDlighthouse back in March of 2002.
Phil Hardt
Author: Phil Hardt
Author: Phil Hardt I wrote 14 Changes That Could Signal Concern In HD - to inform and teach about the softer symptoms of HD in a manner that can be easily understood, allowing everyone to recognize their subtleties early on so they can cope positively with them, instead of letting them ruin their lives. In addition, I got tired of everyone saying to me (when I would try to describe what was happening to me)- "I always forget where I leave my keys", or "Everyone does that!" This will hopefully show that real HD-affected problems are much deeper than most realize, when compared with normal forgetfulness, emotions and behavior.16-May-02
14 Changes That Could Signal Concern
Phil Hardt

The idea came from an Alzheimer's handout I read, however, the examples have all been changed to fit those early cognitive, emotional and behavioral symptoms of HD. My goal was not to create mass hysteria with these 14 Changes, but to help eliminate so much of the bleeding in the trenches I see daily.

  1. Memory Loss that affects job or personal skills. It is normal to forget an assignment, deadline or a colleague's name, especially when under stress. However, frequent forgetfulness or confusion at home or in the workplace over an extended period that is not typical of the person with HD may signal concern.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks. Busy people pause occasionally to think about what they are doing, or how to finish a project. However, concern is raised if tasks which used to be completed in two hours start taking all day, or if getting ready to go somewhere takes an hour instead of ten minutes.
  3. Problems with speech and language. Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with HD may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, such as, "place the pie in the toilet," instead of saying "in the oven." Speaking may be slow, with pauses between words and responses.
  4. Disorientation to time and place. Anyone may momentarily forget the day of the week or what is needed from the store. But persons with HD can easily become distracted and completely lose track of time and tasks. They may remain disoriented until it is brought to their attention. They may get lost driving home, to work, or even to a familiar store.
  5. Changes in mood or behavior. Everyone experiences a broad range of emotions- it's part of being human. However, persons with HD may exhibit rapid mood swings for no apparent reason. These moods may be uncharacteristic changes from their usual temperament. They may show reduced or inappropriate emotional responses to any given situation.
  6. Poor or decreased judgment. Everyone has gotten upset when they received a traffic ticket. However, a person with HD who is stopped and falsely arrested for being drunk may become extremely angry and insult or even hit the policeman because of poor judgment or lack of consequential thinking.
  7. Problems with abstract thinking. Balancing a checkbook can be challenging for anyone, but for someone with HD, recognizing numbers or performing calculations may be extremely difficult and stressful. Diminishing concentration, focus and sound decision-making may signal problems if they continue for no apparent reasons.
  8. Misplacing things. We all misplace a wallet or keys from time to time. However, a person with HD may put items in inappropriate places and not remember doing so, such as placing a carton of milk in the cupboard or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
  9. Changes in personality. Personalities often change with age. A person with HD may experience uncharacteristic changes in their personality. For example, someone who was generally easygoing may become angry, paranoid or fearful and someone who was outgoing may become withdrawn from social interaction.
  10. Loss of initiative. It's normal to tire of housework, business activities or social obligations. But for most people, this feeling is brief and enthusiasm and interest return. The person with HD may become apathetic and become indifferent towards activities which used to bring them satisfaction and happiness.
  11. Depression. Tragedy saddens us all but the person with HD may not recover- they may show increased irritability or crying and may express feelings of hopelessness or guilt. They may lose interest in ordinary activities, such as sex, and may even experience disturbances in eating and/or sleeping patterns. Severely depressed individuals may even talk openly of suicide, saying things like, "I'm not needed anymore," or "Things would be better off without me."
  12. Loss of social inhibitions. It is normal to change beliefs or values as you age. A person with HD may uncharacteristically start cussing, gambling, lying, cheating, stealing or being sexually inappropriate- things they would have never done before.
  13. Loss of visual-spatial coordination. Anyone might misjudge a turn or hit a curb. However, a person with HD may lose the coordination or reflexes to avoid an accident, back out of a driveway, or shift the car. They may hit their elbows while walking through doorways or bump into a wall while simply walking down a hallway.
  14. Slowed comprehension. Everyone occasionally misses the punch line of a joke but a person with HD may have poor or slowed comprehension so they cannot grasp the meaning of a story or conversation. There may also be slowed interpretations or misinterpretations of facial expressions, such as approval or disgust, causing inappropriate responses and misunderstandings.
(PLEASE NOTE: The changes noted above, subtle to severe, should be brought to your doctor's attention if they begin happening unexplainably or are not characteristic of your usual behavior or normal abilities. Since some of these warning signs are so personal, only you or someone close to you, can help determine if they indicate areas for concern or are simply a result of stress or illness. What is typical for one person my not be considered "normal" for someone else??Phil