By Jennifer Gibbons, LCSW, Adult & Senior Care Advisor
I like roller coasters- not the really crazy ones, but those where you can see the path ahead and anticipate what’s next. And unless you’re in the dark riding Space Mountain at Disney World, you know the direction you’re headed. With dementia, there’s no clear path, and whether you want to take the ride or not, one in three seniors will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia[i]. Sometimes it’s hard to determine if your loved one is experiencing typical symptoms of aging or a form of dementia. The following information may help to discern whether or not to pursue a dementia evaluation with a qualified medical professional.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a disease, but a term describing a wide range of symptoms. It includes a decline in memory and thinking skills that are severe enough to hinder everyday activities. Types of dementia include Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Mixed Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia symptoms can also be caused by medical illness and depression, so it’s important to consult a physician for a specific diagnosis.
Signs of Dementia
- Serious memory lapses.Forgetting where you parked the car at the market is normal, but putting your keys in the freezer is cause for concern.
- Loss of recognition.A person with dementia may not recognize familiar people and places.
- Withdrawal from usual activities.Take notice if your mom now finds excuses not to attend events that were previously sources of joy and engagement.
- Difficulty interpreting visual images. Dad is all of a sudden having trouble reading the paper even though a doctor said his eyes are healthy.
- Loss of judgment.A large withdrawal from a bank account without remembering where the money went shows impaired judgment.
- Personality changes. Your usually kind loved one is unaware that she is increasingly agitated and says things that are hurtful to others.
For additional signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s, check the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters” which can be viewed by clicking here or visiting www.alz.org. This document lists warning signs and compares each to typical aging, giving the reader a frame of reference.
There is no simple test to diagnose dementia, and an unusual change in your loved one’s behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that dementia is the cause. Bring your father to the doctor to have a medical work-up and be assessed for depression. If he is physically healthy, see a specialist for a dementia evaluation. After a careful review of your father’s medical history, lab tests, additional information about any changes in daily functioning and behavior (this is most helpful when observations are shared by a loved one), a qualified doctor will discern whether your father has dementia and if so, what type.
Take action early
If your mother does receive a diagnosis of dementia, early treatment may slow the progression, allow time for your family to better understand the diagnosis, and develop a plan for the future. Your Care Planning team can help you process this diagnosis and make a plan.
For help on the rollercoaster ride of aging, call Care.com for personalized guidance and assistance.
Care.com’s Adult and Senior Care Advisers are experienced, masters-level social workers.
Call us today at (855) 781-1303 and we’ll be happy to help with your senior care challenges.
[i] Alzheimer’s Association, 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 10, Issue 2.