While memory problems and forgetfulness are normal parts of aging, confusion and personality changes are not.
When reasoning skills decline and daily tasks become more complicated, you should be concerned about your senior loved one.
Dementia is a progressive disease that worsens in time. During the early stages, your senior may need little assistance and be able to live their life normally. However, their needs will grow over the years, and they will need a lot of attention.
If you are concerned about cognitive changes in your senior, setting them up an appointment with their physician would be a great first step. Even if they can live alone and manage their emotions, the earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner your senior can receive help.
There is no cure for dementia, but treatments and therapies help seniors with dementia live fulfilling lives. To learn about the signs of dementia and how you can provide your loved one with the best care, continue reading below.
Common causes of dementia
While there is an extensive list of causes of dementia, some are more common than others. Depending on the cause of the memory disease, your senior’s dementia may even be reversible.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia found in seniors. Progressive damage is caused by a build-up of the proteins beta-amyloid and tau.
Lewy body disease
Microscopic deposits of a protein called Alpha-synuclein protein clump together in the brains of seniors with this disease. It affects their ability to think, reason and move.
Parkinson’s disease will typically appear when there is a drop in the chemical dopamine in the brain. Some scans have also shown Lewy bodies in the brains of Parkinson’s seniors.
When there is damage to the vessels that supply blood to the brain, it causes white matter fibers to become damaged and puts seniors at risk for memory loss and strokes.
A loss of function can occur in the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes when nerve cells and their connections are broken down.
Typically, seniors that are 80 years and older are at most risk for developing this form of dementia, which occurs when a senior has more than one form of dementia.
Diseases and infections can cause inflammation in the brain that affects brain cells and neural connections.
Infections could include:
- Spirochete bacteria
- Lyme disease
- Gum disease
Fortunately, with quick and proper treatment of some of these infections, dementia may be short-term.
Alcohol & Medications
If you suspect alcohol or medications are leading to symptoms of dementia, check your senior’s medicine cabinet and give their physician a list of all the medicines they are taking.
Drugs that may cause memory loss include:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Cholesterol drugs
- Antiseizure drugs
- Narcotic painkillers
- Parkinson’s drugs
- Hypertension drugs
- Sleeping pills
- Incontinence drugs
The stages and first signs of dementia
The signs of dementia will likely appear in your loved one in stages. While the effects of dementia will vary from person to person, most go through the following seven stages as the disease progresses.
It is common for dementia to go unnoticed during its earliest stage, which generally lasts 2-4 years. Seniors may have some forgetfulness, but they can live alone and complete everyday tasks.
Stage One: No Cognitive Impairment
Mental functioning will be normal, and there will be no signs of a memory loss disease. At this time, the changes going on in the brain will be physiological rather than mental, emotional, or behavioral.
Stage Two: Very Mild Cognitive Decline
Though minor forgetfulness will occur, family members may assume they are having “senior moments.”
Stage Three: Mild Cognitive Decline
You may notice that your senior is becoming more forgetful, repeats themselves, and has difficulty concentrating. They will need help with tasks and remembering dates and events now.
At this point, it’s evident that your senior loved one has dementia. They will need even more of your help, support, and time now. Preparing to transition your senior to a community setting would benefit their health and ease your mind.
The earlier in the progress of their disease that you start to think about assisted living, the easier it will be to transition them in a way that’s comfortable for everyone.
Stage Four: Moderate Cognitive Decline
You will see that your senior’s cognitive impairment is becoming more severe. Your senior will need constant support, and changes in their personality will be obvious as mood swings become common and they withdraw socially.
Stage Five: Moderately Severe Cognitive Decline
If you haven’t transitioned your senior loved one yet, you may want to reconsider it now. As their caregiver, you’ll notice that their degree of memory loss and confusion make it challenging for one person to provide enough care.
Your senior will need the most care, comfort, and assistance during these last few stages.
By late-stage, most people live in an assisted living or memory care community with around-the-clock supervision and nurses.
Stage Six: Severe Cognitive Decline
When visiting your senior loved one, you may notice that there has been a severe decline in their communication skills. It is common for seniors in this stage to forget names, fail to recognize loved ones, and call them by another name.
Along with personality changes and a bigger drop in cognitive functioning, you’ll notice them having trouble eating and swallowing.
Stage Seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline
During the final stage of dementia, a person will not be able to care for themselves, communicate, or use motor skills. Without these skills, they will likely lose their ability to talk, smile, and walk. If they haven’t suffered from hearing loss yet, they may now.
When to transition your loved one to a memory care community
As a caregiver, it may be difficult for you to decide on the right time to transition your loved one, especially if it is a spouse or parent.
While many seniors would love to age in the comfort of their homes, it’s important that they can also age in place, such as in an assisted living community. Some assisted living communities offer memory care communities, meaning your senior will not have to move as their memory and motor skills decline.
When you notice the first signs of dementia, you need to start thinking about a transition. When your senior loved one is having difficulty completing tasks without your help, and it is unsafe for them to be alone, making a transition would be the most beneficial thing for them and yourself.
At a memory care community, your loved one will receive support, rehabilitation, and chances to socialize with others.
Memory care at The Kensington Redondo Beach
At The Kensington Redondo Beach, Our Promise is to love and care for your senior loved one as we would our own. Our staff and on-site nurses show our residents attention and compassion.
When you start to notice the first signs of dementia in your senior loved one, we want you to know that you’re not alone.
Our memory care community consists of two cozy neighborhoods, Connections and Haven. Regardless of the stage of dementia your senior is in, we have a safe and comfortable place for them to fit in.
With rehabilitation, life-enrichment activities, five-star dining, beautiful grounds, and security, your senior loved one can live healthily and happily in a safe and loving environment.Contact us to learn more about our assisted living and memory care communities, on-site therapists, and other services we offer our residents and their families.