Think your parent may have dementia? What to look for.

Ordinary forgetfulness can be a simple sign of aging. Or stress. Or distraction. We’ve all experienced it at one level or another. But what happens when your aging parent starts to show signs that may be more than ordinary forgetfulness?

When a parent or older relative begins to show signs of forgetfulness, it can be tempting to immediately jump to your own conclusion: dementia. And while it’s certainly a possible diagnosis, it’s important to recognize the symptoms that differentiate it from other possibilities.

What is dementia

While the term can be a common catch-all for a variety of medical conditions, dementia is not a single disease. Like the term heart disease, dementia covers a wide range of specific medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, which are caused by abnormal brain changes which trigger a decline in thinking skills, or cognitive abilities, that are severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behavior, feelings, and relationships.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases, with vascular dementia caused by microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain, a close second. Other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, include thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.

Signs of dementia

Signs of dementia can vary greatly based on the individual, and the pace of its progress also varies widely. Some common early warnings signs include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This includes forgetting recently learned information and important dates, asking the same question repeatedly, and relying more heavily on others for help.
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems, including keeping track of monthly bills or following a recipe.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or organizing a grocery list.
  • Decreased or poor judgement in dealing with money or paying less attention to personal grooming.
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing, struggling to name familiar objects or, using the wrong name.

Of course, these are just a few possible signs, and nothing can substitute for the professional opinion of your loved one’s physician. While there is no single test for dementia, doctors can still diagnose Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia based on a careful medical history, a physical examination, laboratory tests, and the characteristic changes in thinking, day-to-day function and behavior associated with each type.

If you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don’t ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause, particularly since a professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition. If symptoms suggest dementia, early diagnosis will allow for maximum benefit from available treatments and time to plan for the future, including any special arrangements for long term care.

If your parent or loved one has advanced to the stage that living alone is no longer possible, it’s important to evaluate and select a facility that provides both a welcoming environment and expert memory care. Facilities such as those managed by American Health Corporation –including three locations in Alabama – offer skilled nursing healthcare nearby and offer active restorative programs to help residents maintain their skills and abilities to live as independently as possible.

Contact the nursing home in your area today for more information or to schedule a guided tour:

Oak Trace (Bessemer, AL) 205-428-9383

Colonial Haven (Greensboro, AL) 334-624-3054

Perry County Nursing Home (Marion, AL) 334-683-9696

Memory loss or dementia?

Signs of normal aging memory loss Signs of dementia
You’re unable to remember details of a conversation or event that took place a year ago. You’re unable to recall details of recent events or conversations.
You’re unable to remember the name of an acquaintance. You’re unable to recognize or know the names of family members.
You forget things and events occasionally. You forget things or events more frequently.
You occasionally have difficulty finding words. You have frequent pauses and substitutions when finding words.
You are worried about your memory, but your friends and relatives are not. Your friends and relatives are worried about your memory, but you are not aware of any problems.