7 Keys to Identifying Dementia
Sometimes family members or those very close to a senior may not recognize mental decline as it’s often very gradual. In identifying areas of concern, it’s important to recognize signs of Alzheimers or dementia so that you can help your senior arrange the help they need in their home to avoid further decline.
Here are the seven most common symptoms which will assist you in identifying memory loss or cognitive decline in your senior.
1. Memory Loss & Forgetfulness
Have you noticed that your senior isn’t following the news? Or keeps asking about plot turns when watching movies? They just don’t seem to grasp things? Memory loss and the ability to store a set of complex instructions may be very difficult. They may also not be able to recall where something is or the correlation between an item and its use or function. Confusion can increase memory loss and your senior will feel helpless.
2. Getting Lost in Familiar Surroundings
Have you found your senior losing themselves in familiar surroundings? Often they will wander aimlessly and not be able to connect to the activity at hand. They may sit and wait an event out … or they may bolt. This is a very serious problem, as many seniors do bolt when confused and then find themselves in a bigger predicament because they can’t recall where they were when they left their familiar surroundings or where they live.
3. Unusual Behaviour
Has your senior always been communicative and comfortable in your presence, but you’ve noticed increased anxiety perhaps about how they are going to get home, how much longer they need to exercise, and whether they can afford coming any longer? Fear, anxiety, agitation and suspiciousness are all very clear traits of an individual in cognitive decline. You may also notice great shifts in mood and personality.
4. Speech and Word-finding Problems
This is a very common problem. Your senior will be stumbling to find words and they won’t come. They may cover their embarrassment with a joke. However, if you find that this is happening more often, do keep track and mention to the doctor and other family members.
5. Living in the Past
Your senior will often revert to stories of their younger years and repeat themselves frequently. Even when you are conversing with your senior in the present tense, they may lapse into a story of the past to counter yours. This repetitive ‘living in the past’ style of communication is quite indicative of cognitive decline.
You many be able to relate to this as well; however, your senior will not enjoy change and will tell you so. They won’t like items moved to another location, a different person at the store, or having a favourite server replaced. Change irritates them and they will show impatience and will even be more likely to quit the program due to changes that they simply cannot process.
7. Gait Pattern & Posture Changes
Shuffling steps, lack of balance and stooping are all indicative of decline in cognitive function but usually occur in a more advanced dementia. Especially noticeable will be the shuffling ambulation pattern. You may find your senior tripping more often, or having trouble with maintaining balance. Your senior is at great risk for a fall which may lead to a fracture.
What to do when you notice these symptoms?
Check out your suspicions with the senior’s doctor. There are community support agencies in most areas that are affiliated with your health region. Home and Community Care may have a nurse that can perform an assessment. There are tests that can be performed by a professional to assess at what level your senior is for loss of memory or cognitive decline.
Most important, be very supportive to your senior. Any agitation or confusion is elevated by increased instruction that they simply do not comprehend, or any lack of patience on your part. An individual demonstrating memory loss and dementia is highly likely to mirror your mood and your attitude. Be patient and smile, take a break, and make light of the situation – humour works very well and helps to lighten any situation and keep your senior’s dignity intact.