Spending more time with family members over the holidays can highlight behaviors you’ve never noticed before. As your parents and loved ones reach a certain age, new habits can be alarming and may leave you wondering if they’re symptoms of cognitive decline.
Someone is diagnosed with dementia every four seconds. If you recognize the signs early enough, you can treat the symptoms and develop new routines that will keep your loved one engaged and help them to maintain a sense of independence.
Here are the top 10 signs to look out for if you suspect someone may be developing dementia:
1. Memory recall of recent events or names
Senior moments happen, but they don’t necessarily mean a dementia diagnosis. As we age, our brain size and neurotransmitters decrease, making it more difficult to pay attention and process information. However, if you notice repeated difficulty remembering events or information, it may be more than a senior moment.
2. Increasing confusion
Has your mom been asking odd questions? Maybe she’s been preparing for an event that doesn’t happen for several months? Mixing up a Wednesday and Thursday are normal and can happen to anyone with a busy schedule. Increased disorientation and confusion about dates, times and places should be monitored.
3. Reduced concentration
Did you know that the human attention span has shortened to 8 seconds due to digital technology? Human beings now have a shorter attention spans than goldfish! However, there’s a difference between our fast-paced society’s new attention deficit way of living and reduced concentration due to cognitive decline. It could be as simple as a sound sidetracking your loved one from a household chore or too many options causing frustration.
4. Personality or behavior changes
Is your sweet, quiet aunt suddenly acting like a larger-than-life Broadway performer? Maybe your dad, who would never hurt a fly, is putting up a fight about pretty much everything these days. Major shifts in personality or behavior are common in early dementia as the condition affects judgment.
5. Apathy or depression
Another indicator of dementia is a sudden lack of interest or motivation to do things. Apathy is more common among those with dementia than in seniors who don’t have dementia. You may find your loved one no longer seems to care about personal hygiene, or personal interactions. Though apathy sounds like depression, those with depression will also experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness or low self-esteem. If your loved one is already living with depression, the confusion of dementia and having a hard time remembering things could make them more confused or withdrawn.
6. Not participating in usual social events
If your loved one is withdrawing from favorite social activities, it could be a big red flag. They may feel embarrassed about memory lapses or communication problems. Depression from new dementia symptoms can also cause someone to withdraw from favorite pastimes.
7. Loss of ability to do everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are those basic tasks that need to be done regularly to function (bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, etc.) People living with dementia often fall behind in these responsibilities because they have difficulty stringing steps together or forget to do it at all. Someone with dementia may also struggle with judgment, leading them to make harmful decisions, or lose focus on a task entirely.
8. Language problems
Everyone forgets a word here and there (the frustrating “it’s right on the tip of my tongue” dilemma) but a person with dementia might not just forget a word but replace it with a completely different one that doesn’t make sense. Not only can someone with dementia become increasingly tongue-tied, but they may have difficulty understanding others.
9. Inability to maintain finances
With confusion being at the top of the symptom list, it’s no wonder that personal finances can become messy for someone living with dementia. You may tend to notice your loved one has bills and notices piled up, random receipts for items that seem out-of-the-ordinary, or recurring charges that don’t make sense. You may want to step in to manage their finances. And make sure they’re on a Do Not Call registry to decrease the number of spammers or scammers who can get to them.
10. New bruises and injuries possibly from mishaps or falls
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Impaired judgment, a decline in sensory perception, and an inability to adequately communicate needs can contribute to falls for those who are starting to show signs of dementia.
If you’ve noticed your parent or loved one is showing several of these signs for a prolonged amount of time, it’s best to take them to their doctor for an evaluation. It’s also possible they’re suffering from dehydration, which has very similar symptoms to dementia.
Aegis Living communities offer memory care programs designed specifically for people with memory loss and their unique needs. If you need assistance caring for a loved one with dementia, or have specific questions, contact the community near you.