Mom is getting older, and you suspect her memory is slipping. She forgets where she put the keys. Her mind wanders during conversations. Sometimes, she can’t remember her sister’s name, but she has not seen her in years. The possibility of Alzheimer’s crosses your mind, but are your concerns justified? Are these things actually signs of dementia?
The Link Between Behavioral Patterns and Alzheimer’s
It is not possible to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease until after death. However, doctors can test for other things that cause the same symptoms and rule them out. This helps them to most accurately determine if Alzheimer’s is causing the behaviors your loved one is exhibiting. Throughout this process, it is helpful to provide their doctor with as much information as possible. One way to do this is by watching for behaviors in their day to day life.
Eight behaviors to be on the lookout for include:
Memory Lapses in Day to Day life
Ignore the occasional time when mom loses her keys or dad misplaces his glasses. Look for patterns. Is your loved one experiencing memory lapses regularly, even every day? If so, make a note of this, and include specifics on the frequency.
Difficulty Learning New Things
That new smartphone is probably complex and difficult for mom to master, but does she seem lost even looking at it? What about that new appliance? Do the microwave buttons or stove features really confuse her? Can she pick up a simple hobby without undue struggles? If these struggles exist, and especially if that is a change from what you have seen in the past, make note of it.
Forgetting the Date
We all confuse Monday with Tuesday some weeks, but if your dad constantly forgets the day, month or year, that might indicate a concern. If this happens just once or only once in awhile, it’s probably a slip-up. However, report what you are seeing to a doctor if you have concerns.
Bad Decision Making
Your parent is an adult, and as such, he is capable of making his own decisions. However, if you notice excessive or unusual spending, a lack of concern about safety or other poor decision making practices – especially if they differ from your parent’s normal behavior, note your concerns.
Everyone forgets a doctor’s appointment or lunch date with a friend once in awhile. However, if your loved one is constantly forgetting appointments, document when the problem started and how often this occurs.
Lack of Interest
Is mom no longer interested in knitting, something that she’s loved since you were a child? Is dad now regularly missing his weekly lodge meetings, even though you were 10 the last time he missed one? A lack of interest in once loved activities or increased isolation might indicate Alzheimer’s. Rule out any other changes that might cause this (an illness or change in physical health, for instance), and then, discuss the concern with a doctor.
When mom repeats the same story she told you five minutes ago or dad asks where you put the broom five times in the space of an hour, write it down and bring it up at their next doctor’s appointment.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s is not an exact science. Your loved one’s doctor can best determine the cause of the concerns you are noticing if you provide him with thorough and accurate information. In your notes, include which of the above behaviors you are seeing (and which you are not), when you first noticed the problem, if there have been any declines or improvements, and if you know of any physical limitations or other concerns (pain, shortness of breath, changes in eating patterns, etc.).
Your parents doctor will document if mom or dad is experiencing persistent problems related to one or more areas of brain functioning. Other problems will also be ruled out, possibly with blood work, a measurement of vital signs and other diagnostic testing. If your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, your doctor can then recommend a plan of care which might include medications. He can also answer questions and provide information about future changes you may see so you can best prepare.
After a diagnosis, many families wonder where to turn especially if their loved one expresses a desire to age in place. Salus Homecare San Gabriel Valley is here to help. Our dementia care specialists provide the right level of care, right at home. With our support, seniors continue to live high quality lives, and families are reassured knowing that their loved ones’ needs are met with compassion and respect. If accredited home care is something your family is interested in exploring, contact us to schedule a complimentary, no obligation consultation.