Are you wondering if your aging parent is showing signs of dementia or just ‘typical’ aging?

Are you wondering how to approach your parent or a doctor to explore these changes? Symptoms of dementia-related changes can vary, and there is a spectrum of severity.

Some frequent signs of dementia include the following:

Frequent memory loss
Normal age-related changes can include forgetting names or commitments and then remembering them later. A common sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s is forgetting recently learned information. If daily life is affected by forgetting dates or asking repetitive questions, it may be time to schedule a doctor’s appointment for an evaluation.

Difficult completing daily tasks
Forgetting how to get to a familiar location or not remembering the rules to a beloved card game can be signs of dementia.

Confusion with time or place
People with dementia may forget where they are or how they got there. Dementia can also lead to an inability to track time regarding when something occurred.

Change in vision
Dementia can lead to vision changes in some people that can lead to difficulty driving, reading, determining colors, or balance issues. Cataracts are a sign of normal aging.

Lack of judgment
Dementia can lead to a decrease in decision-making skills. For example, those with dementia may neglect hygiene or make poor financial decisions atypical of their former selves.

Withdraw socially
A person with dementia may withdraw from activities they formerly enjoyed. Reasons can include losing the executive functioning to perform the activities such as following the complicated rules of chess or having the physical coordination to build train sets.

Mood changes
Dementia can lead to mood and personality changes outside of common age-related irritability. Those with dementia may become paranoid, suspicious, depressed, or anxious.

If you notice your aging parent displaying any of the above changes, schedule a medical examination with their doctor as the first step to evaluate health, hearing, vision, substance abuse, and depression which can all lead to symptoms that mistakenly appear to be dementia.

Be sure to ask their doctor to test for a UTI as symptoms of a UTI can commonly be mistaken for dementia in older adults.

If dementia is suspected, the next step would be to schedule an appointment with a neurologist to explore potential treatments and symptom relief.

How to talk to your parent about dementia

  • Do not try to convince someone that they have dementia.
  • Work with their doctors to create a treatment and care plan.
  • Help them do as much as they can independently with a caregiver nearby to help if needed.
  • Approach suggested life changes (like not driving anymore) in positive ways to help preserve their pride.
  • Pick your battles by not correcting them or insisting on a different version of reality.

A helpful book to continue educating yourself on the differences between normal aging and dementia is

Additional Dementia Resources:

Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey: A Guide for Families and Caregivers, Fifth Edition, Revised and Expanded

Songs You Know by Heart – A Simple Guide for Using Music In Dementia Care (Book + CD)

Positive Approach to Care with Teepa Snow: Dementia Resources and Services

Dementia Care Alliance: Support for Those Living with Dementia

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