Discerning whether an aging loved one has crossed the line from the normal forgetfulness and missteps of advanced age into the dangerous realm of Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a difficult task, made more-so by the fact that many elders wish to continue independent living past the point that doing so is safe. By understanding the signs that can indicate that your loved one needs care, you’ll be better equipped to make this important judgment, and help your loved one live as long and satisfying a life as possible.
Medical professionals look at six key areas when determining a senior’s degree of dementia, and it’s these areas which one should look at for early signs that care may be necessary.
- Memory. The most obvious symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s progression in most cases, problems with memory can quickly graduate from the minor forgetfulness inherent to the aging process to a serious impediment to daily activities. If your loved one begins forgetting important events or losing memories at an advanced rate, it may be time for dementia care./li>
- Orientation. Less obvious than some other symptoms, it’s crucial that you take your loved one’s ability to orient themselves into account when determining whether they need care. Regular difficulty in determining location, time, or date should all be treated as major warning signs—problems with orientation can result in misdosing of medications, getting lost, and other problems./li>
- Judgment/Problem solving. Loss of executive function is a major warning flag when determining whether your loved one requires care. If your loved one seems to struggle with resolving situations, they may be in danger of various accidents: if you’re not certain of your loved one’s ability to deal with an emergency such as a small fire in the kitchen, it may be time to consider dementia care./li>
- Community affairs. If you notice your loved one withdrawing from community activities such as going to church, political involvement, visiting friends and family, etc., this can be an early warning sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This also makes spotting more obvious symptoms more difficult, so stay highly aware of any changes in this area./li>
- Home and hobbies. If your loved one stops taking care of activities around the house, be alert. This may indicate simple difficulty with the tasks, such as arthritis making cooking, cleaning, knitting, etc., difficult, but it can also indicate the withdrawal typical to advancing cases of AD and dementia. This can hasten the evolution of either condition, as hobbies are known to combat deterioration of the mind./li>
- Personal care. The final traditional indicator for dementia, loved ones showing reduced personal hygiene and care for themselves should be viewed with some amount of alarm. If your loved ones begin eating poorly, bathing infrequently, not bothering with makeup or hair care, etc., make sure to ask them about it.
Remember, many of these warning signs can be caused by other developing conditions common to the elderly. Pain from arthritis and a general lack of physical capability can contribute to much of the same problems, without indicating any loss of mental acuity. Depression and other mental and behavioral symptoms can also manifest similarly, without necessitating dementia care. However, in such cases other forms of outside assistance may be advisable—allowing any of these situations to continue unchecked can only go poorly, but with proper assistance deterioration of the mind, body, and mental well-being can be controlled.