Receiving an Alzheimer's disease or dementia diagnosis can be a challenging experience for individual caregivers and families alike. Naturally, you want the best for your loved one, but you may still be wondering, “what’s next?” How do you know when the time has come to move your aging parent or spouse into residential memory care? Are you seeing the elderly warning signs?
Know The Warning Signs & What They Mean
Every person is different. The symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other age-associated cognitive disorders may come on slowly and quickly accelerate, or they may rapidly progress from the get-go. Regardless, there are still some broad warning signs that professional memory support could be right for your loved one.
1. Medication management difficulties
Many older Americans take medications for heart disease, arthritic pain, or other medical conditions. Consistently taking those medications is often key to living a prolonged, healthy life.
If you notice your aging loved one is skipping taking their medications or taking them too many times a day, that’s often an indication that they may require professional caregiving.
Sometimes, they may just need help organizing medications, picking up prescriptions, or understanding their dosing. Other times, there is an underlying cognitive disorder causing these behaviors.
2. Missed medical appointments
It’s fine to miss a doctor’s appointment due to a scheduling conflict or similar circumstances. However, repeatedly missed appointments could point to a more significant issue like memory loss.
3. Changes in personal and household cleanliness
Take note of any changes in how your loved one is taking care of themselves or their home.
Here are some examples to watch for:
- A loved one has a noticeable body odor or unkempt appearance, despite traditionally taking pride in looking their best.
- You notice your loved one wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row.
- Your aging parent or spouse struggles to keep up with doing the laundry or taking out the trash.
- Your loved one is not tossing out spoiled food and may even be eating it.
Work with your loved one’s primary care doctor to determine if these changes are related to the onset of dementia or another condition, like depression. In either situation, your loved one may need some support to improve their environment.
4. Agitation and personality changes
Another indication that a person may need memory care or support is significant changes in their personality. Take note if your aging loved one is acting more anxious or depressed or is easily upset. Also, keep an eye out for lack of interest in usual activities or noticeable changes in daily routine or sleep patterns.
5. Becoming unsteady
As Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progress, physical changes become more common. If a loved one still lives alone, these changes are all the more worrisome.
Suppose your loved one has fallen more than once, is reluctant to walk even short distances, has unexplained injuries, has expressed fear of falling or has difficulty navigating stairs. In that case, it may be time to have a conversation about residential memory care.
6. Significant memory loss
While we all forget things from time to time, it’s important for caregivers to take note of memory loss that is frequent or more pronounced.
Look for key warning signs, such as:
- Being unable to remember how to spell a word
- Having trouble remembering a close loved one’s name, such as a grandchild
- Having trouble remembering where they live or what their address is
- Difficulty remembering what day it is
- Forgetting their name or birthdate
7. Changes with speech and communication
If your senior loved one is communicating with you less frequently or the quality of those communications has declined, it may be time to talk to them about residential memory care. Likewise, changes to vision or hearing can both point to a decline in health and wellbeing.
In particular, an older person with dementia may revert to child-like or infantile speech patterns. They may become generally less communicative or seem perpetually bewildered. Simple questions or instructions might be met with inappropriate or nervous laughter or frustration, and agitation.
Wandering refers to when a person, typically an older adult, becomes lost or confused about their location. It is often indicative of late-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once, but many do so repeatedly. Therefore, this behavior typically indicates a need for professional memory support.
Is your older loved one ready for residential memory care replacement? The Episcopal Church Home can provide your loved one the level of care and support they need to age positively and improve their quality of life. Contact us now for more information about our campus and to join our waitlist.
Editor's Note: This blog was originally published in April 2017 but has been updated and republished with more current information.