Naturally, a person might start to become a little absent-minded as they age. However, there is a point where memory loss becomes a concern and could be an indicator of a larger health issue. Severe memory loss is not a normal or expected part of the aging process.
If your parent is showing memory loss or other symptoms of dementia, it is important that you address the issue as soon as possible. If there is an underlying health condition, treatment is generally much more effective the sooner it is started. It’s also a good idea to give yourself and your family as much time as possible to adjust to a serious diagnosis and effectively plan how to manage it.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a general term given to cognitive decline that is severe enough to affect day to day living. It’s often used as an umbrella term to describe a variety of different conditions.
This could be things like loss of memory, difficulty with language, and trouble solving everyday problems.
One of the most common causes of dementia is Alzheimer’s. However, there are a myriad of other conditions that can cause it too. Alzheimer’s causes between 60-80% of cases of dementia. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, although research is ongoing. There are treatments that are available to stop the progression of symptoms and improve the quality of life for sufferers.
The second most common cause of dementia is vascular dementia, which occurs when there is microscopic bleeding or blood blockage in the brain. As with Alzheimer’s, there is no cure for vascular dementia, however, there are treatments available that can help with the symptoms and improve quality of life.
Signs of dementia
Some of the signs that could indicate dementia are:
- Asking the same questions or telling the same stories repeatedly.
- Finding themselves lost in places that they know well.
- Struggling with the concept of time.
- A loss of attention span or the ability to focus.
- Having trouble communicating with other people.
- Not being able to follow directions.
- Becoming confused when they wouldn’t normally.
- Difficulty recognizing people and places that they know well.
- Impaired logic and judgement.
- Not taking care of themselves properly. For example, they might not be feeding themselves properly, bathing, or keeping their home clean as they usually would.
These symptoms often come on quite slowly and gradually, and they can be difficult to spot at first as they could be caused by other factors than dementia. If you start to notice any of these symptoms, it’s important that you speak with the sufferer as soon as possible, just in case they are an indicator of dementia.
Have the conversation as soon as possible
Talking with someone about their memory loss will never be easy, particularly if the person you are talking to is your parent. It’s an incredibly emotive subject with highly emotional connotations, and so must be approached carefully.
The most important thing that you can do is to have the conversation as early as possible. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, the earlier any treatment is started, the more effective they are likely to be. Secondly, it’s a good idea to have conversations about care and treatment plans while your loved one is still coherent enough to contribute. This way, they can be part of the decision-making process, and you can be sure that they are happy with the care option you decide on.
Finally, it’s quite likely that the first conversation may not go well. You might be met with denial, anger, or your loved one may become quite distraught. By beginning the conversation as early as possible you give yourself enough time to have multiple attempts at the conversation, and to not have to push anyone harder than necessary.
It’s important that your loved one comes away from the conversation feeling supported, so be sure to reiterate the fact that you are there for them as much as possible. It’s also worth thinking about who has the conversation. If there is a family member with whom there is a fractious history, for example, they may not be the best one to approach such a sensitive subject.
Try to convince your loved one to seek advice from their physician as soon as possible. The sooner a diagnosis is reached, the earlier they will be able to start gathering information relating to their condition and how it is likely to impact their life. A physician will also be able to provide family members and carers advice on what to expect and what preparations will need to be made – for example, what care is likely to be needed and whether any changes to the home should be made.
Families of people suffering from dementia can also access advice from the Alzheimers Association.
Involve them in conversations about care
Caring for someone with dementia can have a huge impact on your life. Many people find that it’s not possible to provide the level of care that they would like to and that outside help is needed.
There are options available, like home healthcare assistants or assisted living communities. Assisted living communities such as those run by Frontier Management LLC focus on giving their residents as independent a life as possible and remaining engaged with a community of people. This sense of independence and connection can be invaluable for maintaining cognitive health for as long as possible.
Keep an open dialogue
It’s important that families keep talking openly and honestly about how they are feeling, and not just when the initial diagnosis is made.
Looking after someone with dementia can be emotionally draining, and the condition isn’t easy for the sufferer. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open so that your parent feels that they are supported, and make sure that you keep in contact with a support network of your own to look after your mental health, too.