As your parent ages, you may have concerns about whether he or she can continue to live independently. This is especially true if you notice signs of forgetfulness, memory loss and confusion.

Understand the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia so you can help your loved one prepare for the future.

Memory loss

While memory loss is the hallmark sign of dementia, it differs from the normal forgetfulness that occurs with aging. If your family member develops dementia, he or she may display memory loss that impacts daily life. For example, a person who has Alzheimer’s disease may suddenly need countless reminders to perform normal tasks, like turning off the stove after cooking. He or she may get lost on familiar routes or be unable to remember simple processes. The Alzheimer’s Association says that individuals who develop Alzheimer’s often forget information they learned recently.

Trouble with problem-solving

Does your parent suddenly struggle with tasks involving numbers, like paying bills, making a budget or following a recipe? Difficulty solving simple problems and following basic procedures can signify early dementia. While occasional errors are normal, disruptive errors may indicate a problem.

Disorientation

Individuals who have developed dementia may have trouble orienting themselves in place and time. You may notice that your parent forgets their location, what day it is or what time it is. He or she may become confused about the current situation or become unable to find often-visited places. They may become increasingly reliant on tools like GPS navigation, even when driving around town.

Spatial relations struggles

Your family member may suddenly seem clumsier than usual. Sometimes, people developing Alzheimer’s disease have vision difficulties that manifest as spilling, tripping and dropping things. Your parent might also display an unusual loss of balance.

With early diagnosis, individuals who have dementia can undergo supportive therapy that may slow the progress of the disease. Having this diagnosis also allows your family to plan for long-term care and other needs.