Part of the aging process is letting go of things that are no longer comfortable or possible. We lose some mobility, we may be limited by vision or hearing problems, and many of us find our social circles diminished over time. There are some episodes of forgetfulness that are normal, but dementia has its own set of challenges.
Dementia Vs. Forgetfulness
There are several examples of memory loss that can come up as we age. Senior forgetfulness can be frustrating, but not every missed appointment, lost word or slipped up name is a sign up dementia. If you notice a loved one is missing connections, consider the factors below.
Recent Memory Loss: Your loved one may forget that they already had breakfast and fix another, or they may forget that they didn't have dinner and fail to get hungry. Weight gain or loss, running out of food or overbuying groceries can all be signs of losing recent memories.
Communication Challenges: It can be frustrating to tell someone something over and over again. If you notice your elderly loved one rambling, let them talk if they are upset, but gently let them know that you've already discussed the topic they're currently speaking on. Are they startled, or are they aware and just feeling the need to restate a topic because it's important?
Visual Issues: If your loved one is struggling to read labels or if they appear to have problems with their depth perception, it could be an early sign of dementia. Keep an eye out for bumps and bruises; vision problems can put an elder at risk of a fall.
Forgetting Simple Tasks or Processes: Sometimes a dementia sufferer can't maintain a current action effectively enough to take all the steps necessary to complete it. They may forget to turn off lights, close doors, or turn off the water after washing their hands. This can get dangerous when cooking and may put them at risk if they don't lock up their home.
Feelings of Apathy: If a loved one has always been independent, not understanding what's going on for them can lead to apathy. If they're missing activities or events and struggling to understand why, depression and hopelessness can follow.
Confusion in Familiar Settings: We've all had the experience of going to our regular grocery store and finding things have been moved. For someone struggling with dementia, this feeling may crop up every time they try to open a cabinet door. If your loved one suddenly can't find things in their home, they may be struggling with dementia.
Personality Changes: Seniors in the early stage of dementia can get
They may decide that since they can't find what they remember buying yesterday, someone has been in their house. They may imagine that someone is stealing from them or that you are lying to them. Try to understand their frustration; the world they expected is not where they woke up.
Talk to Their Doctor
To determine if your loved one is struggling with ordinary senior forgetfulness or exhibiting signs of Alzheimers or another form of senior dementia, discuss your concerns with their physician. They may be on a new cholesterol drug that's causing memory loss, or they could be depressed and withdrawing from the world. Loneliness is not just a temporary feeling of isolation. Loneliness can kill.
Make sure that your loved one is not suffering a drug interaction or in need of therapy and socialization before you really start to focus on dementia. If, however, your loved one is diagnosed with an illness that will lead to senior dementia such as Alzheimers, know that there is help.
How Memory Care Can Help
Many forms of dementia make it impossible to attach new memories. While your loved one may remember you, they may not recall your new spouse. A memory care unit can keep your loved one safe while allowing them to take pleasure in the activities they can still enjoy.
This may mean having a place to grow flowers but not having access to a mower or gasoline. If your loved one adored working on his lawn, he may be given a rake and a helper so he can still get some sun and enjoy being productive, but he won't be allowed the use of any hazardous tool.
It could mean being invited to participate in a sewing or craft activity but not having access to more than one tool at a time. One of the challenges with any form of dementia is tracking. People know what needs to happen but they can no longer order or perform the steps. Your mom might get to lay out a quilt, but someone else will run the machine.
These spaces may also allow some wandering but require a tracking bracelet. Many seniors with dementia can still function safely with security in place. Driving may be out, but a walk around the gardens can still be safe.
Dementia sufferers can still enjoy life within a memory support and care center. Rather than facing a constant state of worry or trying to understand what they've lost, a memory care center can keep them focused on what they can still enjoy.