Donald Sterling Defense: Personality Changes Could Signal Dementia

Source: Susan Donaldson James / ABC News

Early symptoms of dementia may include mood and personality changes, but can racist comments mask the onset of devastating disease?

Anything is possible, say experts in the wake of an exclusive Barbara Walters interview with Shelly Sterling, the estranged wife of embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who said Sunday, “I — in my opinion, I think he — it’s the onset of dementia.”

“The most universal sign of early dementia is not memory loss, but personality change,” said Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of research at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, who has written several papers on dementia. “Two basic characteristics not related to memory are apathy and indifference or callousness. People become withdrawn and disinterested in other people to the point of being rude.”

While family members may think, “My mother was really like that all along,” Galynker said the changes like insensitivity and inappropriateness have “little to do with their personality before.”

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