When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, many families struggle with the uncertainty of the diagnosis. Cognitive disorders can progress very differently from person to person. For example, symptoms may slowly worsen over an extended period or escalate very quickly. Along with the range of emotions that come from dealing with a parent’s memory loss, families experience increased stress from juggling the growing care needs of the loved one with the day-to-day responsibilities of careers and raising their own families.
This stress may leave you wondering: is time to move your parent or loved one into residential memory care?
Safety Is a Top Concern for Loved Ones with Dementia
The question of whether your parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia can continue to live at home — independently or with caregiver assistance — depends on a number of factors. Rick Phelps, an advocate for dementia awareness, notes, “My rule of thumb is that there is no downside to placing a loved one in a facility too soon. However, there are many drawbacks to waiting too long.”
Here are six indicators you should watch for:
1. Severe memory loss
Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. But when your loved one’s judgment is clouded by memory loss, he or she may struggle with once-familiar routines. Forgetfulness leads to a pan being left on a hot stove. Confusion results in a traffic accident. Disorientation causes mom or dad to get lost during a neighborhood walk. Geriatric specialist Elaine Healy recommends, “When your loved ones are continually putting their physical safety at risk, it's time to consider memory care.”
2. Difficulty following health plans
Older adults tend to have more complex health concerns, and with them, more complicated care plans. Attending regular doctor’s visits, filling prescriptions, and taking medications daily are critical to your loved one’s health. Still, memory loss can make self-care for heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic conditions more challenging. Missed doses can lead to declining health; accidental overdose can lead to emergency room visits or hospitalizations.
3. Sleep disruption
After a loved one is diagnosed with a cognitive disorder, you may notice changes in his or her sleep patterns. Mom or dad may sleep more during the day, leading to insomnia at night. These changes can be disruptive for both parents and caregivers, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
4. Personality changes
Cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia can have a ripple effect on an individual. Your loved one may, for example, withdraw from socializing because he or she feels overstimulated by noisy settings. Even the family gatherings mom or dad used to enjoy may lead to confusion, frustration, or anger. Agitation may increase later in the day — a sign of “sundowner syndrome,” which is typical of dementia in its later stages.
5. Lapses in household cleanliness and personal hygiene
Older adults may already have reduced mobility or other health concerns that make chores and self-care more difficult, but declining cognitive function can compound the issue. We’ve all forgotten to take out the trash before, but ongoing neglect — such as food left on the counter or laundry not being done — can be a sign that your loved one is not coping well. The same goes for ignoring personal hygiene. As memory loss worsens, mom or dad may forget to bathe or wear the same clothes several days in a row.
6. Poor mobility
As Alzheimer’s worsens, your loved one may be less steady on his or her feet, leading to falls. Some cognitive disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, may also cause shaking or jerking limbs, making it difficult for mom or dad to hold objects.
Marjorie P. Lee is well equipped to help you navigate the challenges when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. We offer person-centered memory care in the Cincinnati area, including innovative therapies that enhance the lives of residents and slow the rate of their cognitive decline. Get in touch to arrange a tour or request more information.