Your elderly mother is having trouble performing simple tasks, and she’s locked herself out of the house several times. The other day mom went to the bank and couldn’t remember how to get back home. Mom’s forgetfulness has now reached the point you suspect she has dementia. What should you do? When you’re dealing with aging in a place with loved ones who may have dementia, providing them with the care they need can be challenging. But doing so is possible when you use this approach.
What is Dementia?
The term “dementia” doesn’t describe a specific disease, but rather a series of symptoms that include changes in memory and other cognitive functions. Many seniors with dementia also exhibit uncharacteristic personality changes and behavioral problems like delusions, agitation and hallucinations.
Although a diagnosis is tricky, here are some signs that your loved one may have dementia:
- Getting lost in familiar surroundings
- Not remembering important dates, events, and people
- A distorted perception of time
- Noticeable changes in judgment and logic
- Trouble communicating with others
- Asking the same questions, or telling the same stories, repeatedly
- An inability to follow simple directions
- A short attention span and trouble focusing
- Uncharacteristic poor hygiene and housekeeping
While memory loss may accompany the various forms of dementia, memory changes alone don’t always mean a senior has dementia. Certain diseases can also cause symptoms of dementia, including Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob, along with some medications.
Finding Out for Sure
Researchers have also linked certain health conditions to a patient having dementia-like symptoms, including endocrine disorders, nutritional deficiencies, urinary tract infections, brain tumors, anoxia or hypoxia, and heart and lung problems. First, ask yourself if mom has any of these medical conditions. If not, investigate further if she has dementia by:
Keeping a Journal
Over the next month, record any unusual behaviors that mom exhibits in a journal. Ask your siblings or trusted friends who spend time with mom to also compile notes. At the end of 30 days, share what you’ve observed among the group. If it looks like mom could have dementia, schedule a time for the two of you to see her doctor. Mom may be hesitant at first, but if you and your siblings all express your concerns, and why, she will probably relent.
Going to the Doctor
Prior to making a diagnosis, her doctor will take a health history and perform a thorough mental and physical health evaluation. Don’t forget to share what you’ve recorded in your journal. They will probably do bloodwork and urine testing to rule out other factors for mom’s cognitive decline. The doctor will also conduct a full mental assessment by testing her memory, problem-solving, math, and language skills. They may even order a head CT scan or MRI to check mom’s brain function.
Helping Mom if Dementia is Present
After all the testing is completed, if the mom’s doctor feels that she has dementia, you can take several actions to ensure that you provide the ongoing care she needs. As dementia progresses, at some point it won’t be safe for mom to live on her own. In the meantime, here are some reliable short-term steps you can take to keep her happy and healthy:
- Learn everything about dementia
- Modify her home to make it safer, including eliminating fire hazards
- Learn new ways to communicate effectively
- Join a dementia caregiver support group
- Provide the level of supervision she needs to stay safe
- Find ways to keep her active and engaged with others
If mom desires to continue aging in place at home for as long as possible, at some point you may want to consider hiring a professional in-home caregiver from a reliable agency.
Reliable In-Home Care for Seniors with Dementia
Caring for an aging-in-place senior with dementia is rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming when you have your own household to manage or live far away. When you need a hand, call Health at Home. As a fully licensed and insured agency in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Martin County, St. Lucie County, and Indian River County our highly trained and carefully screened caregivers understand the unique care needs that seniors with dementia require. They will serve as an extended family in your loved one’s home so they can continue aging in place right where they want to be.
Our family trusted in-home services include light housework, personal hygiene, medication reminders, meals, transportation, and companionship. And, all our services can be individually tailored in an affordable package when and where you need them. To learn more about Health at Home, or to schedule a FREE, in-home assessment for your senior, please visit healthathome.care now!