confused senior lady on phone at desk

You can’t quite pinpoint it, but you’ve begun to detect some changes in Mom’s behaviors recently. She’s a bit more forgetful than before. She keeps losing her car keys. Occasionally she repeats herself. Is it Alzheimer’s?

Currently, over 6.5 million people age 65 and older are dealing with the disease, so it’s important to know the initial indicators to watch for and what should be done if they are detected in a loved one. Medical experts are finding that one helpful means of evaluating an older adult for dementia is talking to family members about eight key areas of functionality. If you are having concerns about a person you love, a smart starting point is to ask yourself the following:

  1. Is the senior less enthusiastic about once-enjoyed hobbies? Mom may have always loved working in the garden but has abandoned this activity, or is simply spending more hours acting restless and bored rather than engaged in enjoyable interests.
  2. Is she saying the same things over and over? These could be tales from the past or more current stories, or questions you have already answered.
  3. How is her sense of judgment? Look closely at the decisions she’s making about her expenses, for instance. Is she giving away large sums of money? There might be more innocuous lapses in judgment as well, such as attempting to bake two dozen cupcakes when there’s no one to share them with.
  4. Does she become bewildered about the current time and place? Forgetting that it’s Wednesday is very common, particularly for a person who is retired or doesn’t have to keep to a specific schedule. However, not remembering what month or year it is should be noted.
  5. Can she learn something new? Do you have to explain multiple times how to use a simple new appliance? Though there is a learning curve for anything new, give thought to whether understanding something new seems impossible.
  6. Is she missing commitments? This includes both planned appointments, like a haircut or doctor’s visit, and less formal plans, like giving you a call after lunch or meeting you for a standing weekly dinner date.
  7. How does her checkbook look? Are bills being paid late? Is her checkbook balanced, or does it appear she has been having difficulty handling household finances? One critical red flag is whether or not mail is being opened and tended to promptly. A collection of unopened mail is definitely worth noting.
  8. Is she struggling with memory? Take note of any areas of general confusion in thinking in addition to memory. For example, gauge her short-term memory (asking what she had for breakfast or what she did yesterday afternoon).

While evaluating each of these areas, make note of the following as well:

  • When did you (or someone else close to the person) first see these changes?
  • Are these instances a difference or decline, or a brand new behavior entirely?
  • Are there any suggestions of physical problems or limitations that could be leading to the concern and that ought to be addressed?

With all of this information in hand, set up a consultation with the individual’s physician to share your concerns. During the appointment, the doctor will conduct an assessment to see if Alzheimer’s could be the cause and determine what the subsequent steps should be.

At-Home Care Company’s specially trained and experienced home care team is available to help older adults in any stage of dementia to optimize wellbeing. We will develop a personalized plan of care to outline how we can help the individual effectively deal with the challenges being faced, and then review and update the plan on a regular basis as needs change. Call us at 515-292-2650 for more information about how our dementia care services can help.