Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Losing your way

“Are you having a senior moment PopPop?”

That was the question posed by a grandchild last week as I got totally lost trying to get her to school in New Jersey.

“No I am not,” I replied. “I just hate driving in New Jersey,”

I don’t know the area very well and it’s one that has residential neighborhoods criss-crossed by parkways. I have never been able to imprint the directions in my head.

I did set the GPS on a memory that I thought was the school. It turned out it was for a bouncy house location from a birthday last year.

While driving past a construction site, I saw a police car and pulled over for directions. Turns out I was only minutes from the school. The police officer figured this out by talking to the kids. Apparently there are a few elementary schools in the town.

I began to relax as I approached the school — a red brick building in a rural setting — when my granddaughter and grandson said I was at the wrong school. I was nervous as I passed the building when they said they were joking. I didn’t find it very funny as I made a U-turn to get them to school on time.

I did pick them up at the end of the day on time and arrived at the school without difficulty. I guess that I just have to get used to Jersey traffic patterns. Like getting in the right lane to make a left turn. The residents call these jug handles. I never stay long enough to get used to them. And I have forgotten about them when I get back into the state.

So what exactly are “senior moments” and how do they differ from something more serious?

If I got lost driving my grandson to Shelter Island School in the morning, that would be serious and need investigation.

Senior Center Director Laurie Fanelli gave me information from UCLA’s “Healthy Years” that contained symptoms of serious problems and some common memory tests.

Instances that raise concern, according to the article, include repetitive questioning within a short period of time. Getting lost on familiar routes. Memory loss that affects daily functioning like forgetting how to use a washing machine and falling victim to similar financial scams multiple times.

If you feel you may have memory issues, do bring this to the attention of your primary care physician.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association the following can help us distinguish an ordinary age-related change to a sign of Alzheimer’s, including poor judgment and decision making, while typical normal aging may result in making a bad decision once in a while.

The Alzheimer’s victim will have an inability to manage a budget while it’s quite normal for a senior to once in a while miss a monthly payment. And while it happens some times that we forget which word to use in a conversation, the Alzheimer’s patient has difficulty holding a conversation.

Another common age-related problem is losing things from time to time. It happens to most of us. But misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them is a sign of Alzheimer’s.

If you do have worries about the state of your brain, talk to your doctor about various cognitive tests available. Your physician may direct you to a neurologist.