As you watch a loved one age, it is a good idea to note behaviors that may be unusual or out of character for them. Occasional forgetfulness and the rare misplacing of an important item are typical for seniors over sixty-five. However, aging is a risk factor for dementia. If your loved one shows signs of disorientation, memory loss, difficulty with word recall, and struggles with thinking and reasoning, there may be more cause for concern.
Dementia is not a disease but an umbrella term used to refer to a host of symptoms associated with damage to brain cells. Causes vary and can include reversible conditions such as malnutrition and urinary tract infections, progressive illnesses like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, and even a traumatic brain injury. If you’re caring for a loved one, be on the lookout for the following dementia symptoms:
Losing Track of Time
If your loved one suddenly forgets about weekly appointments, major holidays, or significant life events like birthdays and anniversaries, they may be having trouble keeping track of time.
Difficulty with Word Retrieval
We’ve all experienced losing our train of thought from time to time, but be aware if your loved one is doing this multiple times a day or has trouble finding words during regular conversations.
You are right to be concerned if your loved one suddenly forgets to pay bills, bounces checks, gets calls from creditors, makes frivolous purchases, misplaces essential financial documents, or makes inappropriate investments.
Losing Interest in Hobbies
Does your loved one seem to be in good physical health, but you’ve noticed that they’ve stopped engaging in hobbies or activities that they once loved? Or are they trying to participate in an activity but having trouble grasping new skills or concepts? If so, mention these types of observations to their physician.
Exhibiting Risky Behavior
Maybe you’ve noticed your loved one getting lost while driving, wandering from home, spending more money than usual, or disregarding social norms in public. Unusual behaviors like these can put your loved one in harm’s way and may be indicators of dementia.
If you recognize some or all of the above behaviors, keep a record of your observations and concerns and bring them to your loved one’s physician immediately. Your ability to spot dementia symptoms early on can lead to a quicker and more accurate diagnosis. Early detection of dementia can be attributed to slower progression and allow your loved one to help make decisions about their future.
However, if you’ve read through the above symptoms and believe that your loved one is simply experiencing age-related memory impairment, the following steps can help to improve their forgetfulness:
- Get more sleep
- Stick to a regular daily routine
- Reduce stress
- Practice mindfulness
- Engage in regular exercise
- Eat a healthy diet
If you’re still unsure if your loved one is experiencing memory impairment or showing signs of dementia, please consult a medical professional. Taking steps toward getting answers will provide you and your loved ones with a plan of action and peace of mind.