You can’t quite pinpoint it, but you’ve started to notice some changes in behavior in Mom recently. She is a little bit more forgetful than before. She keeps misplacing her car keys. Occasionally she repeats herself. Could it be Alzheimer’s disease?
Currently, more than 6.5 million people age 65 and older are struggling with dementia, so it’s crucial to know the early symptoms to watch for and what should be done if we notice them in a friend or family member. Medical professionals are finding that one helpful tool in evaluating an older adult for Alzheimer’s is assessing eight critical areas of functionality. If you’re having concerns about a person you love, a great place to begin is to ask yourself the following:
- Is the individual less interested in once-enjoyed hobbies? Mom might have always loved gardening but has abandoned this hobby, or is simply spending more time acting restless and bored rather than engaged in enjoyable activities.
- Is she saying the same things repeatedly? These might be stories from the past or more current tales, or questions that you have previously answered before.
- How is her sense of judgment? Take note of the decisions she’s making about her expenses, for example. Is she handing out large sums of money? There might be more innocuous lapses in judgment as well, like planning to bake a triple batch of cookies when there is no one to share them with.
- Does she become puzzled concerning the current time and place? Forgetting the day of the week is fairly common, specifically for an individual who is retired and no longer restricted by a schedule. But, not remembering what month or year it is must be noted.
- Can she learn something new? Do you have to explain multiple times how to use a simple new home appliance? Although there is a learning curve for anything new, take note of whether understanding something new seems impossible.
- Is she missing obligations? This includes both scheduled appointments, like a doctor visit or haircut, and less formal obligations, such as calling you each afternoon or meeting you for your standing weekly coffee date.
- What do her finances look like? Are bills being paid on time? Is her checkbook balanced, or does it appear she has been having difficulty managing household finances? One crucial red flag is whether or not mail is being opened and tended to promptly. A collection of unopened mail may be worth noting.
- Is she having difficulties with memory? Look closely at any areas of general confusion in thinking as well as memory. Particularly, measure her short-term memory (such as asking what she had for breakfast or what she did yesterday afternoon).
While evaluating these areas, make note of the following as well:
- When did you (or someone else close to the senior) first detect these changes?
- Are these instances a difference or decline, or a brand new behavior altogether?
- Are there any signs of physical issues or limitations that might be causing the concern and that need to be dealt with?
With all of this information in hand, set up an appointment with the individual’s physician to talk about your concerns. During the appointment, the doctor will conduct an assessment to see if dementia could be the cause and what the subsequent steps should be.
At Grace Home Care, our specially trained and experienced dementia care team is available to help older adults in any stage of Alzheimer’s increase quality of life. We will develop a personalized plan of care to outline the ways we can help the individual best manage the challenges being faced, and then review and update the plan on a regular basis as needs change. Call us at 785-286-2273 to find out more about how our home care services can provide the right type and amount of support.