How Do You Know It’s Dementia? Things to Look For
Have you noticed a change in the way your loved one is making decisions? Or maybe that he or she is more forgetful? When you spot subtle changes, it is quite normal to suspect Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Before you visit the physician, however, keep a list of your observations. Below is a list of a few behaviors worth noting for discussion at an appointment.
Challenges with Processing and Memory: As we age, our brain tends to slow down a bit, so it is normal to take longer to recall some things. However, if you see your loved one forgetting recent events or appearing more confused, make note.
Inability to Remember Month or Year: When schedules change, such as after retirement, it is easy to lose track of the day of the week. But if you notice your loved one forgetting the year or the month, jot it down. You may also notice missed appointments or difficulty keeping commitments.
Repetition: Are you listening to the same stories over and over? This is a common sign of impaired memory and should also be noted.
Misplacing Items: Did you find the fabric softener in the refrigerator or the TV remote in the bathroom drawer? While these things may seem humorous, they could be a sign of something more serious and indicate that mental processes are changing. Such occurrences are worth writing down.
Changes in the Handling of Finances: If your loved one has historically paid bills on time and kept a close eye on their finances but is now missing payments or having a difficult time keeping track of money, make note.
Disregard for Safety or Poor Judgment: Is your loved one behaving recklessly or making decisions that are out of character? If so, you should add it to your list of concerns.
Once your notes are complete, it is time to accompany your loved one to their doctor. Discuss your concerns with the medical provider and determine a plan of action. If you learn that a form of dementia may be the cause for your concerns, here are a few questions you could ask.
- What kind of dementia is suspected, and what evidence supports the diagnosis?
- How far has the dementia progressed? What stage is it?
- What can we expect further down the road?
- Are there any treatment options to consider? If so, how does each treatment help?
- Should my loved one continue to drive or live alone?
- How can I support my loved one during this journey?
While this information is in no way an exhaustive list, it is a starting point. If a diagnosis of dementia is the outcome, it does not have to be a looming dark cloud. Many dementia diagnoses are treatable and having the right information can make planning for the future easier. You will find there is still plenty of joy in life for your loved one to experience.
If you are the caregiver for your loved one with dementia, be sure to prioritize your own self-care and have a support system in place.
Written by: Kim Shiver, Legacy Village Assisted Living & Memory Care
Photography by: Eric Vinson