So-called “senior moments” happen to almost everyone, but when does it mean something more?
We’ve all had the experience: the word you want is on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t grasp it. Frustrated, you finish your conversation. Five minutes later that elusive word pops into your head.
Although this is how the novel and film Still Alice begins, with a Harvard linguistics professor experiencing the initial symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD), occasional forgetfulness does not signal the start of dementia.
According to Brendan Kelly, MD, a UC Health neurologist and Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Education at the University of Cincinnati, “There are very subtle or mild changes that occur in our memory function and overall cognitive performance,” as we grow older. “But major increases in forgetfulness are not something that we should expect as part of normal aging.”
Red Flags for Memory Loss
When memory lapses start to impair day-to-day functioning, it’s time to pay attention, says Kelly. Even then, however, the memory impairment may not be due to encroaching dementia. There are more than 50 “dementia mimics”. These include:
- Medication side effects or interactions
- Illness or infection (urinary tract infections often create confusion and agitation in the elderly)
- Depression or anxiety
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Dehydration (common in older people, because a sense of thirst decreases with age, so they may neglect to drink enough water)
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Emotional stress: feeling sad, lonely, worried, or bored, all of which may be more common for people in retirement or coping with loss, such as the death of a spouse, relative, or friend.
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
If you’re concerned that your senior loved one may be experiencing the beginnings of Alzheimer’s (the most prevalent form of dementia), here are ten signs to watch for:
- Memory loss. While all of us forget information from time to time, or misplace our keys or eyeglasses, someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may immediately forget new information, lose track of important dates and names, or rely heavily on posted reminders to manage daily activities.
- Visual changes. It becomes harder to read words on a page, judge distances, and tell colors apart. These changes can make driving more dangerous for someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
- Conversational misfires. Struggling to find the right word, calling objects by the wrong name, repeating a story in the same conversation, or suddenly pausing in the middle of a conversation because they don’t know what to say.
- Difficulty managing money. Mismanaging money can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease. If calculating a tip or balancing the checkbook start to become challenging, make sure the problem is not visual impairment unrelated to mental decline.
- Confusing time and place. Disorientation, wandering, or becoming easily lost.
- Loss of initiative. It becomes harder to make decisions, or to act spontaneously.
- Poor judgment. Giving money to telemarketers or phone scammers, forgetting to shower, or dressing inappropriately for the weather.
- Trouble planning and problem solving. Following an old recipe is suddenly difficult, or the senior forgets the rules of a favorite game.
- Social withdrawal.Instead of meeting a friend for lunch, someone with early Alzheimer’s wants to stay in and watch TV.
- Personality changes. A mild-mannered mother acting aggressively, or becoming paranoid that someone is taking her belongings.
Steps to Take Now
Becoming a caregiver for someone with dementia is a demanding role that can affect your quality of life and relationships as well as your health. Once you know your loved one is in the early stages of memory loss, follow these fundamentals to help make your caregiving experience the best it can be, for both you and your loved one:
- Plan ahead. Since dementia is progressive, there will likely come a time when caregiving at home becomes impractical. At this point, professional care in a memory care community such as The Kensington Redondo Beach will be your next best step. You’ll also want to be proactive about financial planning.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s dementia. Although memory loss is a classic dementia symptom, in other types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, the dominant symptom is personality changes. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to manage symptoms as they manifest.
- Put yourself in their shoes. It’s frightening to realize you’re losing your ability to think clearly and remember what you once knew with ease. The more you can empathize with their feelings and fears, the more you will be able to soothe the person with memory loss and be as supportive as possible.
- Be realistic. This road isn’t a straight line. Your loved one will have good days and not-so-good days. Aim to measure your success in terms of helping them stay as comfortable, content, and safe as possible.
- Say yes to support. Family Caregiver Alliance is one excellent virtual support network: the first community-based nonprofit organization to address the needs of families and friends who are providing long-term care for loved ones at home.
How The Kensington Cares for Loved Ones with Memory Loss
Here at the Kensington Redondo Beach, we offer exceptional care options for those experiencing Alzheimer’sor other forms of dementia. Our specialized memory care “neighborhoods” are customized to meet your loved one’s unique needs.
- Connections is for seniors in early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia care, who show increasing signs of memory loss. Connections provides a secure, elegant, and comfortable environment to maximize safety while helping residents remain independently engaged in activities that give their days meaning and purpose.
- Haven is a soothing, peaceful neighborhood for middle to late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia residents who require a higher level of assistance and care. With adaptive design features to help with recognition and minimize confusion, we’re able to provide maximum safety while enabling residents to engage in ways that are meaningful, soothing, and pleasing for them.
Please get in touch soon, and let us show you why The Kensington is the right next step for your loved one.
Memory loss is life changing for all involved. At The Kensington, we provide a state-of-the-art memory care program, a higher staff-to-resident ratio than industry standards, and more advanced care services. Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.
For additional resources regarding your loved one’s condition, please read on about our Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care.