Whether our parents live alone or in a senior community, it can be upsetting to watch them go through the changes that come with getting older. Some of these changes may include trouble with memory or difficulty performing everyday tasks.
While these changes can be a natural part of aging, they may also be symptoms of dementia.
Signs of dementia to watch for can include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty with routine activities
- Changes in mood and personality
- Difficulty communicating
- Misplacing things
- Changes in judgment, reasoning, and problem solving
- Social withdrawal
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other cognitive skills that interfere with daily living. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but age, among other factors, can increase your risk for dementia.
A healthcare provider can diagnose dementia. However, if you’re concerned that your parent may have dementia, there are signs you can watch for.
One of the early signs of dementia is memory loss or forgetfulness beyond normal aging that disrupts daily life. Typical age-related changes can include the occasional:
- Misplacing of car keys
- Forgetting an acquaintance’s name
- Struggling to find the right word and remembering it later
- Forgetting the most recent events
If your parent is experiencing memory loss that impacts their daily life, it might be a sign of dementia. Memory loss in dementia can become a pattern and look like the following:
- Missing appointments
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Forgetting important dates
- Forgetting recent events of conversations
- Struggling to recall the names of close family members
Difficulty with Routine Activities
A common sign of dementia is difficulty completing familiar daily tasks. Parents with dementia can forget how to do things they have done for years, such as cooking a meal, paying bills, writing a grocery list, or remembering the rules of a favorite game. If you notice your parent struggling with routine tasks, it might be a sign of dementia.
Disorientation & Changes in Mood & Personality
Dementia often brings about disorientation in time and space and causes changes in mood and personality. Your parent might lose track of dates, seasons, or even the passage of time.
They might seem confused about where they are or, in severe cases, not recognize their own home. This can look like:
- Confusion about the day of the week
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Becoming easily frustrated
- Experiencing sudden mood swings and personality changes
A decline in language abilities is another common sign of dementia. Watch for difficulty with communication:
- Struggling to find the right words
- Struggling to express themselves clearly
- Repeating themselves
- Using unusual words for familiar objects
- Difficulty following or joining in on a conversation
Pay attention to your parent’s written communication, such as notes that don’t make sense can which also be a sign of dementia.
We all misplace keys or glasses occasionally, but someone with dementia might put things in unusual places. Your parent may accuse others of stealing because they can’t remember where they put something.
Look out for odd occurrences, like finding the TV remote in the fridge or car keys in the pantry. These incidents might be more than just absent-mindedness in old age.
Changes in Judgment, Reasoning, & Problem Solving
Dementia can impact judgment and decision-making. If you notice your parent making poor choices, like dressing inappropriately for the weather, paying less attention to grooming, or neglecting personal hygiene, it’s worth investigating.
Also, look for signs of poor judgment or decision-making with financial responsibilities, such as errors in paying bills or managing finances. These shifts in decision-making can be subtle but are signs of dementia.
Is your parent withdrawing from social activities they once enjoyed? Dementia can cause a loss of initiative or lack of interest in social interests, such as hobbies and socializing with friends and family.
Adult children can keep an eye on whether a parent is avoiding hobbies, clubs, or social events that were once sources of joy. Older adults with dementia can experience difficulty with memory or communication, which makes social situations overwhelming, prompting them to retreat and can lead to isolation.
Memory Care for Parents with Dementia
Recognizing signs of dementia in a parent is a sensitive journey that takes empathy and understanding. If you’ve noticed a combination of these signs in your parent, sit down and have an open, honest conversation with them and encourage them to see a healthcare professional.
An early diagnosis can make a significant difference in managing the symptoms and progression of dementia and improving the quality of life. As you embark on this journey with a parent with dementia, know that you are not alone.