You cannot quite pinpoint it, but you have begun to observe some changes in Mom’s conduct recently. She’s a bit more forgetful than before. She keeps misplacing her car keys. At times she repeats herself. Could it be Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia?
Currently, over 6.5 million people age 65 and older are struggling with dementia, so it’s crucial to know the early indicators to watch for and how to proceed if we notice them in a friend or family member. Medical experts have found that one helpful means of evaluating an older adult for dementia is interviewing family members about eight key areas of functionality. If you’re having concerns about someone you love, a smart starting place is to ask yourself if you’ve noticed the following signs that could point to Alzheimer’s disease:
- Is the person less interested in once-enjoyed activities? Mom might have always loved working in the garden but has given up pursuing this hobby, or is simply spending more days acting restless and bored instead of engaged in enjoyable pastimes.
- Is she saying the same things repeatedly? These may be tales from the past or more current stories, or questions that you have already answered more than once.
- How is her sense of judgment? Look closely at the decisions she’s making about her spending, for example. Is she giving out a large amount of money? There may be more innocuous lapses in judgment too, such as planning to bake two dozen cupcakes when there is no one to share them with.
- Does she become confused about the current place and time? Forgetting that today is Wednesday is quite common, specifically for a person who is retired and no longer restricted by a schedule. But, not knowing what month or year it is ought to be noted.
- Can she learn a new challenge? Are you finding the need to explain multiple times how to work a simple new appliance? While there is a learning curve for anything new, give thought to whether learning something new seems insurmountable.
- Is she missing responsibilities? This includes both arranged appointments, like a haircut or doctor’s visit, and less formal plans, like giving you a call after lunch or meeting you for your standing weekly coffee date.
- What do her finances look like? Are bills being paid on time? Is her checkbook balanced, or does it appear she’s having difficulty dealing with household finances? One key red flag is whether or not mail is being opened and tended to right away. A collection of unopened mail is worth noting.
- Is she having difficulties with memory? Look closely at any areas of general confusion in thinking in addition to memory. Particularly, evaluate her short-term memory (asking what she had for breakfast or what she did yesterday afternoon).
While assessing each of these areas, make note of the following as well:
- When did you (or someone else close to the senior) first notice these changes?
- Are these instances a change or decline, or a brand new behavior entirely?
- Are there any signs of physical issues or limitations that might be resulting in the concern and that should be addressed?
With all of this information at hand, set up an appointment with the individual’s doctor to talk about your concerns. During the appointment, the doctor will conduct an assessment to see if dementia could be the cause and what the next steps should be.
At Anthem Home Care, our specially trained and experienced home care team is available to help seniors in any stage of dementia to optimize quality of life. We will develop a customized care plan to outline how we can help the individual best handle the difficulties being faced, and then review and update the plan on a regular basis as needs change. Contact us at 361-643-2323 for more information about how our dementia care services can provide support.