A Lot of Life to Live

It can be difficult to notice the slight changes in a senior that indicate the early stages of dementia. By paying close attention to the warning signs of dementia, you can allow your loved one to live a happier and safer life.

“Sometimes the changes can be very subtle,” says Grace McDonald, Assistant Director of Nursing at Bethesda Meadow, a skilled nursing home community in Ellisville, MO. “The symptoms are very similar to depression. Seniors find it embarrassing to tell their doctor when they’re having problems remembering things. But it’s important to know that when a person is diagnosed with dementia, it doesn’t mean your life is over. There is still a lot of living to do.”

Warning Signs of Dementia:

  • Memory loss that is disruptive to normal daily life
  • Difficulty solving routine problems or completing tasks
  • Confusion over planning and in remembering times and dates
  • Problems communicating, as if the person is having trouble finding the right words
  • Losing things routinely or getting lost
  • Changes in personality, increased irritability
  • Use of poor judgment

“Everybody forgets where they put their car keys or forgets to pay a bill,” Grace says. “What we need to look for are more consistent problems handling things that are a normal part of life. For example, if your Mom or Dad gets lost going someplace they haven’t been before, that might not be a big deal. Everyone has forgetful moments. However, when they have to find ways to compensate for their inability to remember on a daily basis because they can’t retrace their steps, that could be a sign of dementia.”

Some forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s Disease, are slow to develop. A person may not notice little changes that are signs of memory loss.

“When people are living at home, they have a routine, so they can mask signs of memory loss and dementia a lot longer,” Grace says. “Sometimes the first time caregivers – like adult children – notice is when their loved one has to go to the hospital for something unrelated to dementia.”

Be Prepared, Have a Plan

With early detection of the warning signs of dementia and having a plan in place, the benefits of care can be maximized, potentially allowing the senior to remain independent longer.

People in different stages of dementia require different levels of care. Seniors with dementia may live at home for a long time, depending on the support system they have in place. Grace says it often takes several weeks for a senior suffering from memory loss to ease into a new environment, and it can be a very difficult transition for families if they’re not prepared.

“Long term memory care with Bethesda starts before the senior even comes through our door,” says Grace. “When we prepare for a new resident, we try to go through their family history to identify their likes and dislikes. We want to have things that are familiar to them in their room, and make sure things are set up the way they like them from the moment they walk in the door.

Paying close attention to the warning signs of dementia can help your senior loved one live a happier life. If your loved one is experiencing signs or symptoms of dementia, contact Bethesda to see how our memory support communities in the St. Louis area can provide support.