Recently a friend moved her 80-year-old mom into an assisted living facility. While her mom has always been as sharp as a tack, my friend started noticing that her mom was forgetting simple, everyday things. Jokingly she said to me “Maybe I should start to bring my mom to see you for some appointments. She must have ADHD.” Well, this got me thinking. There are lots of older adults, aged 60 and over, that start showing signs of forgetfulness and are often led to believe that this is part of aging and may even be the start to Alzheimer’s. Particularly in post-menopausal women whose symptoms may seem to increase as estrogen decreases, forgetfulness amps up. According to Dr. David Goodman in an article from the New York Times, it could be that they were never looked at in younger years as a person with ADHD. However, once a family history is completed, it may become clearer which diagnosis to pursue. Symptoms in ADHD and Alzheimer’s can look the same or overlap. For example,
- Reduced concentration can look like inattention in ADHD
- Memory loss can look like poor active working memory in ADHD
- Impulsivity and disorganization can look like confusion
- Difficulty having a fluent conversation or wandering off may look like dementia
Regardless of the official diagnosis, there are many accommodations, hacks, and apps out there that can help a senior with either diagnosis.
- It’s Done! Did I turn off the stove? Did I forget to feed the dog? This app of Apple or Android can help you remember activities of daily life.
- Freaky Alarm. Is it an alarm? Is it a medication reminder? Is it a game? YES! Available only for iOS, this app allows you to scan QR or barcodes, so you don’t forget to take your medication. It acts as an alarm clock to help get you out of bed in the morning by playing a game or completing a puzzle (keeps the mind sharp!)
- WatchMinder. This watch was designed for children with ADHD but has fast become a tool for adults with ADHD or Alzheimer’s. Programmable reminders and vibrations appear on the watch face. Its uses include reminders for medication, toileting, rehabilitation/exercise, and much more.
- Tile. Can’t find your keys? TV Remote? Wallet? Tile is here to help! This slim tile connects to your phone over Bluetooth to help you locate missing items. Great for keychains!
- Flipper TV Remote. An adaptive universal remote with limited buttons. Channels +-, volume +-, on/off. Easily program only the channels you regularly watch. Hidden numbers for a direct tune.
- Virtual Assistants. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, or a downloadable app such as Lyra Virtual Assistant allow you to speak commands into your phone so you don’t forget. Schedule reminders for appointments, wake up alarms, or even changing the laundry.
- Medisafe Meds. An app that reminds you to take your medications and gives personalized reminders for each of your medications and vital drug interaction warnings. It also allows for direct communication with your doctor.
- Post-It Notes. Keep these brightly colored sticky notes handy. Each color can represent an action item. Perhaps electric yellow is a grocery list item, or neon pink is an appointment reminder.
If you or a loved one seem to have these symptoms, you may want to start a conversation with a doctor. But while the medical professional is working with you, start thinking about using some of the above suggestions to help support those deficit areas and continue to age gracefully.