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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder among the elderly

Older adults who seem distracted may be suffering from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Older adults who seem distracted may be suffering from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

We all know children that just seem to have difficulty staying in their seats. We see them squirming around, having trouble awaiting their turns in games and fidgeting with their hands. We typically see this in little boys and it is known as Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The truth is that we also miss it in little girls because they may not present as forcefully.

ADHD is a developmental condition of inattention and distractibility with or without hyperactivity. Experts say that 15-20 percent of these children maintain their diagnosis into adulthood. They also note that as many as 65 percent of these people have ADHD or forms of it as adults.

There are three types of ADHD. In the inattentive type we see those making careless mistakes, seemingly not listening to what is said, losing things needed to perform tasks such as pens, books or toys. They may be forgetful of daily activities, be easily distracted by anything else going on or dislike school work.

In the hyperactivity ADHD child, we see the typical fidgeting or squirming in the seat. We see difficulty being still or playing with others, excessive talking or difficulty waiting for their turns.

There is also an ADHD that exhibits a combination of the inactivity and hyperactivity.

ADHD is inherited and at a high rate of 76 percent. That makes it the highest inheritable psychiatric disorder. It is not the sugar in the foods as was once thought; it is the genes children inherit. The family environment may exacerbate it.

As noted, ADHD is three to five times more common in boys than girls. The inattentive type is more commonly seen in girls.

Because it was not well known in earlier years, many parents and grandparents are just being diagnosed with ADHD as their children and grandchildren are being diagnosed with the condition.

Many had their lives initially managed by their parents who provided the guidance and performed tasks to minimize their ADHD. As they became adults, many were able to learn and place structure in their lives that enabled them to live. As they married, a protective spouse may have provided this task such as keeping things in order or not allowing them to handle the family finances. In some cases it was a coworker that provided the stability needed.

What we are seeing now though are people who have retired and are having difficulties in life. Without that structure of that job and its regular hours and the structure needed to perform it, people are getting lost and not knowing what to do. When that supportive spouse dies and that structure and support that once existed is no longer there, a child may see that parent struggling and recognize that Mom did not have it together and Dad was doing all of the work.

This is important because medical help will most likely be sought and questions must be answered. Is this some form of dementia, a physical illness or possibly undiagnosed ADHD?

If it is ADHD, medication may be given that can alleviate some or most of the problems. These people can see improvements in their abilities to handle their lives, maintain jobs and relationships.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at