You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you have begun to observe some differences in Mom’s habits recently. She is a bit more forgetful than before. She keeps losing her car keys. Sometimes she repeats herself. Could it be dementia?
Currently, over 6.5 million people age 65 and older are struggling with dementia, so it’s important to understand early indicators to watch for and what to do if we observe them in someone we love. Medical experts are finding that one helpful tool in evaluating whether a loved one might have Alzheimer’s is assessing eight critical aspects of functionality. If you’re having concerns about a person you love, a great starting place is to ask yourself the following:
- Is the person less interested in once-enjoyed activities? Mom might have always enjoyed gardening but has abandoned this pastime, or is simply spending more days acting bored and restless rather than involved with enjoyable activities.
- Is she saying the same things repeatedly? These might be stories from the past or more current tales, or questions you have already answered.
- How is her sense of judgment? Focus on the decisions she’s making about her purchases, for example. Is she handing out large sums of money? There might be more harmless lapses in judgment too, like wanting to bake two dozen cupcakes when there’s nobody to share them with.
- Does she grow bewildered regarding the current place and time? Forgetting that today is Friday is rather common, particularly for someone who is retired or doesn’t have to keep to a specific schedule. But, not knowing what month or year it is should be noted.
- Can she learn new things? Do you have to explain multiple times how to use a simple new kitchen appliance? While there is a learning curve for anything new, give thought to whether understanding something new seems insurmountable.
- Is she missing responsibilities? This includes both planned appointments, like a doctor visit or haircut, and less formal commitments, such as calling you after dinner or meeting you for your standing weekly coffee date.
- What do her finances look like? Are bills being paid late? Is her checkbook balanced, or does it appear she is having difficulty keeping up with household finances? One critical red flag is whether or not mail is being opened and tended to right away. A pile of unopened mail is worth noting.
- Is she having difficulties with memory? Look closely at any areas of general confusion in reasoning as well as memory. For example, gauge her short-term memory (asking what she had for breakfast or what she did yesterday afternoon).
While assessing these areas, make note of the following as well:
- When did you (or someone else close to the individual) first see these changes?
- Are these instances a difference or decline, or a new behavior altogether?
- Are there any signs of physical problems or limitations that could be resulting in the concern and that ought to be dealt with?
With all of this information in hand, set up a visit with the individual’s primary care physician to share your concerns. During the appointment, the physician will conduct an assessment to see if Alzheimer’s may be the cause and determine what the next steps should be.
At Live Free Home Health Care, our specially trained and experienced home care team is available to help seniors in any stage of dementia to maximize quality of life. We will create a personalized care plan to outline how we can help the individual best cope with the challenges being faced, and then review and update the plan regularly as needs change. Call us at 603-217-0149 to find out more about how our dementia care services can provide support.