Has your aging parent been acting a bit “off” compared to their normal behavior? Perhaps getting lost on familiar streets in your neighborhood or maybe repeating stories they just told you ten minutes ago? If so, these may or may not be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Very often, memory loss can be attributed to getting older; however when dementia sets in it can become difficult for loved ones if they do not understand what is going on with their parent’s mind. First, let’s go over the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in case you are just discovering this for the first time.
Dementia is a cluster of symptoms that may include: short-term memory loss, unclear thinking or reasoning, hindered problem-solving ability, repeating sentences or phrases over and over again, getting lost easily or misplacing items (which also falls under the forgetfulness category). Alzheimer’s is not always caused by dementia, or vice versa. It is a progressive disease that attacks the mind, which can be hard to distinguish when other age-related problems occur.
Here are 8 signs your aging relative may need to be checked by a physician for Alzheimer’s or dementia:
Repetitiveness. Elderly people with dementia may keep asking the same questions over and over again, no matter how many times you have given them the answer. They may also repeat sentences, phrases or entire stories word-for-word.
Peculiar Behaviors. If you’re finding the jar of ketchup in the cupboard instead of the refrigerator, or the car keys under the pillow, or a hairbrush in the freezer, this may be a sign of your loved one’s mind not working properly.
Odd Dressing and Hygiene Habits. Lack of good hygiene is a classic symptom of dementia. If your parent has dressed or fixed their hair a certain way their whole life and now starts wearing the same shirt for three days or stops combing their hair, this could be another warning sign.
Confusion or disorientation. When your loved one drives down the wrong way on a one way street or gets lost in a town they have been living in for the last forty years, this is more than concerning and can be downright dangerous.
Mood swings. When an elderly person starts losing their mind, it can affect their personalities. They might become mistrusting of family members or get angry, frustrated and upset over something trivial. Or, some become withdrawn and just want to keep to themselves. They could even become unfriendly to people who they like and develop a “grumpy” personality as a result of their own frustration.
Speech or language delays. When your loved one suddenly stops in the middle of a sentence and struggles to find the right words, this could be a sign that their mind is failing them.
Forgetting people and places. It is not uncommon for a person with dementia to think of names from the past. They may call their grandson or granddaughter by the name of their own son or daughter, or they may think they are living in a town that they have not set foot in for the past thirty years.
Messing up easy tasks. Your elderly relative may leave the pot boiling on the stove too long when cooking food or forget how to work the TV remote, and other basic tasks that were once just “automatic” things they have always known how to do.
We all have failed memories from time to time, where we might misplace our keys or forget a name of someone we worked with just last year. But when your aging loved one does some of the odd and peculiar things that are associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it would be wise to seek professional advice from your family doctor. Take your aging parent in for an evaluation so they can get a genuine assessment for this common disease.