You cannot quite pinpoint it, but you’ve started to observe some differences in Mom’s conduct lately. She’s a bit more forgetful than before. She keeps losing her car keys. Sometimes she repeats herself. Is it Alzheimer’s disease?
Currently, over 6.5 million seniors age 65 and older are battling the disease. Because of this, it’s important to learn about the early warning signs to watch for and know how to proceed if we believe a loved one could have dementia. Medical experts have found that one helpful means of evaluating an individual for dementia is assessing eight critical elements of functionality. If you are having concerns about a person you love, a great starting point is to ask yourself the following:
- Is the person less interested in once-enjoyed activities? Mom might have always enjoyed working in the garden but has abandoned this activity, or is simply spending more days acting restless and bored instead of engaged in pleasurable interests.
- Is she saying the same things over and over? These might be tales from the past or more current stories, or questions you have previously answered.
- How’s her sense of judgment? Pay attention to the decisions she’s making about her expenses, for instance. Is she handing out large sums of money? There could be more innocuous lapses in judgment as well, such as attempting to bake two dozen cupcakes when there’s nobody to share them with.
- Does she get confused about the current time and place? Forgetting the day of the week is fairly common, especially for someone who is retired or doesn’t have to keep to a specific schedule. But, forgetting 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 home appliance? Although there is a learning curve for anything new, take note of whether understanding something new seems insurmountable.
- Is she missing responsibilities? This includes both arranged appointments, such as a haircut or doctor’s visit, and less formal obligations, 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 late? Is her checkbook balanced, or does it appear she has been having difficulty handling household finances? One key warning sign is whether or not mail is being opened and tended to right away. A collection of unopened mail is worth noting.
- Is she struggling with memory? Pay attention to any areas of general confusion in reasoning as well as memory. Particularly, assess her short-term memory (such as 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 individual) first notice these changes?
- Are these instances a change or decline, or a new behavior entirely?
- Are there any suggestions of physical problems or limitations that might be resulting in the concern that should be dealt with?
With all of this information available, schedule an appointment with the individual’s primary care physician to share your concerns. During the appointment, the doctor will conduct an evaluation to see if dementia could be the cause and what the subsequent steps should be.
At Morning Glory Home Care, our specially trained and experienced dementia care team is available to help individuals in any stage of Alzheimer’s to optimize quality of life. We will develop an individualized plan of care to outline the ways we can help the person effectively deal with the challenges being faced, and then review and update the plan on a regular basis as needs change. Call us at 618-667-8400 for more information about how our home care services can provide the right type of support.