When a loved one develops Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it will become difficult for him or her to make important decisions and live independently. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three Americans will eventually develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, with Alzheimer’s alone affecting 5.8 million Americans.
If you care for an older family member, know the signs that he or she may be experiencing the early stages of dementia.
While some forgetfulness is normal as we age, dementia causes significant memory loss that impacts a person’s functional ability. For example, your loved one may not remember names and dates, ask the same questions again and again, or rely on written notes for details that were once easy to recall.
Someone in the early stages of dementia may not remember the right words or understand another person’s meaning. You may notice that you struggle to converse with that person or that it takes him or her much longer than usual to understand even simple information.
Tasks like paying bills and keeping a monthly budget can be insurmountable for a person struggling with the cognitive changes of dementia. Be aware of signs like overdrawn accounts, past-due notices, stacks of accumulating mail and other signs that your family member’s finances may have fallen behind.
Mood and personality changes
Does your family member seem sad, depressed, restless, anxious or irritable? Mental health issues are common among seniors, but they are also associated with the development of dementia. Your loved one may also display personality changes, such as being more withdrawn or much more gregarious than usual.
Trouble with familiar tasks
A parent who can no longer tend to his or her beloved garden or make a traditional favorite meal may be experiencing the memory loss and confusion of dementia. He or she may also get lost on the way to familiar destinations or have difficulty with activities of daily life.
Talk to your family member about the changes you have noticed. Seeking medical help can provide support for these issues and improve the person’s quality of life.