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What To Do If You Think Your Parent Has Dementia

If you notice any dementia-like symptoms in either of your elderly parents, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your parent’s doctor.

Dementia-like symptoms can include things like memory loss, difficulty communicating, and changes in mood or behavior.

While these symptoms can be normal as we age, they may also be early signs of some form of dementia.

Therefore, it is important to have your parent evaluated by a qualified doctor. A neurologist is the best place to start for an accurate diagnosis.

Neurologists are medical professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the nervous system which includes the brain.

You want to make sure to rule out any other potential causes and make sure that your parent is getting the care and support they need which is why it’s so important to take action as soon as possible.

There are a number of treatable conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms. These include thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, and depression.

You’ll want to get a proper diagnosis so that these and other possible issues can be ruled out.

There are many things you can do to support your parent or older adult loved one if they have dementia.

Here are some tips:

  • Be patient and understanding. Dementia can cause changes in mood and behavior, so it is important to be patient.
  • Help them with activities of daily living. Dementia can make everyday tasks hard to do. You can help by doing things with them or for them.
  • Encourage socialization and stimulation. Staying active and engaged is important for people with dementia.
  • Stay involved in their care. As the disease progresses, you may need to help make decisions about their care.
  • Be a caregiver for yourself, too. It is important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically when you are caring for someone with dementia. Look into respite care, it’s extremely important.

Although there is no cure for dementia, treatments are available that can help your parent manage the disease and improve their quality of life.

The neurologist will do a complete exam and order tests, if needed. The diagnosis of dementia can be difficult, so it is important to get as much information as possible.

A dementia diagnosis can be devastating for your parent but also for their adult children. But, know that there is help available.

Support groups for caregivers and dementia patients can provide much-needed emotional support.

There are also many great resources available online:

Once a diagnosis is made, the doctor will provide assistance for you and your parent to create a treatment plan.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing dementia, but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

It is also important to talk to other family members or friends about the diagnosis. They can provide support and assistance as the disease progresses. Plus, don’t forget about checking into the support groups mentioned above!

How Do You Get Checked For Dementia?

There is no one definitive test for diagnosing dementia. A diagnosis of dementia is made based on a comprehensive assessment that takes into account an individual’s medical history, physical examination, and cognitive and neurological functioning.

The assessment process typically includes:

  • A review of the individual’s medical history, including information about any conditions that may be causing or contributing to the dementia symptoms
  • A physical examination to look for any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms
  • Laboratory tests, including blood and urine tests, to rule out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms
  • Neuroimaging studies, such as a brain scan, to check for any structural changes in the brain that could be causing the symptoms
  • Cognitive and neuropsychological testing to assess memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking skills
  • A psychological evaluation to look for signs of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions that could be contributing to the dementia symptoms

In some cases, additional tests may be needed to rule out other conditions, such as a brain tumor or a thyroid condition.

Also be aware of the general time of day that your senior loved one is showing signs of dementia because that may make a difference when they go for an examination.

The sooner you can see someone, the better!

An early diagnosis opens the door to future care and treatment. It helps people to plan ahead while they are still able to make important decisions on their care and support needs and on financial and legal matters. It also helps them and their families to receive practical information, advice and guidance as they face new challenges.

Social Care Institute For Excellence

What Happens If Dementia Is Not Treated?

Untreated dementia can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. And on their family and loved ones as well.

Relationships can suffer, as the person with dementia may become withdrawn, combative, confused, etc.

Dementia can also lead to financial problems. The person with dementia may have difficulty managing their finances and budgeting properly.

This can put a strain on their family, who may need to step in and help manage their finances.

Untreated dementia can also lead to health problems. The person with dementia may forget to take their medications or may not eat properly. This can lead to a decline in their overall health.

Dementia can be a very costly disease to manage. In the United States, the annual cost of caring for someone with dementia is estimated to be about $60,000.

This includes the cost of medical care, support services, and lost productivity. (Of course, this estimate is from 2015!)

According to a 2015 study, the average cost of dementia care (over a five-year period) was $287,038, compared to $175,136 (heart disease) and $173,383 (cancer). And in 2018, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the lifetime cost of Alzheimer’s and dementia care at a staggering $341,840.

Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia can help people live longer, healthier lives. Treatment can also help slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life.

What Are The 4 Warning Signs Of Dementia?

Most everyone is aware of a common sign of dementia which is memory loss, to some degree. This and other early signs of dementia are a good indication of the 4 warning signs of this disease.

These signs are:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges with planning or problem solving.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time and/or place.

Secondary signs of dementia include:

  1. Poor judgment and decision-making skills.
  2. Changes in mood and personality.
  3. Social withdrawal and isolation.
  4. Obsessive compulsive behavior such as scratching their skin.
  5. Loss of motivation and interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyed.
  6. Difficulty communicating, finding the right words to speak.
  7. Difficulty communicating non-verbally such as use of gestures, facial expressions, etc.
  8. Repeating themselves over and over.

If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or your aging parent, don’t ignore them.

Memory problems and changes in mood or behavior can be early signs of serious health conditions. Talk to a doctor about your concerns.

Dementia is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a person, affecting their daily life and activities. There are four main types of dementia:

  1. Alzheimer’s disease
  2. Lewy body dementia
  3. Frontotemporal dementia
  4. Vascular dementia

There is also “mixed dementia” which is a combination of two or more types. The most important thing to remember is that each type has its own set of symptoms and progression rate.

So, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of dementia for each type.

All types of dementia are progressive meaning they get worse with time.

And, while there is no cure for dementia, there are treatments available that can help slow its progression and improve the quality of life for those affected.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Difficulty with basic tasks
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It accounts for about 5% to 10% of all cases.

Symptoms of Vascular dementia include:

  • Difficulty with planning and problem solving
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Trouble with speaking and writing

Lewy body dementia is the third most common form of dementia, accounting for about 5% of all cases.

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:

  • Visual hallucinations
  • Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Frontotemporal dementia accounts for about 10% to 20% of all cases.

Symptoms of Frontotemporal dementia include:

  • Personality changes
  • Loss of social skills
  • Difficulty with language and communication

Again, if you are concerned that a loved one may be showing signs of dementia, it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

There is no one test that can diagnose dementia, but a combination of medical history, physical examination, cognitive testing, and brain imaging can help to confirm the diagnosis.

Dementia is a progressive disease, which means it will get worse over time. There is no cure for dementia, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

It is important to work with a healthcare team to develop a treatment plan. The treatment plan may include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

While working as an Occupational Therapist on patients with dementia, one thing I found was that their families often had unrealistic expectations about the course of this disease.

Sadly, dementia is a terminal illness, and eventually, the person with dementia will die. The average life expectancy for someone with dementia is four to eight years from the time of diagnosis.

However, some people live much longer with the disease.

If you are the primary caregiver for someone with dementia, it is important to take care of yourself.

This includes getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. You may also want to consider joining a support group for caregivers.

What Is The Most Obvious Problem During The Beginning Stages Of Dementia?

There are many problems that can occur during the early stages of dementia, but one of the most obvious that family caregivers usually notice first is memory loss.

This can make it difficult for people to remember recent events or even important details about their lives.

As the disease progresses, memory loss will become more severe and can eventually lead to a complete loss of short-term memory.

Other common problems during the early stages of dementia include a decline in visuospatial skills, difficulty with language, confusion, and changes in mood or behavior.

These symptoms can make it hard for people to communicate with loved ones or participate in activities they once enjoyed.

As time goes by, these symptoms will become more severe and can eventually lead to a complete loss of independence.

Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia is important to help slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life for those affected.

Another common problem is denial. Many people who are diagnosed with dementia will deny that they have the disease.

This can make it difficult to convince them to seek treatment or participate in activities that can help improve their symptoms.

We have multiple articles on the topic of dementia – read them here.

How Does A Person With Dementia Act?

A person with dementia may have changes in their mood and behavior.

They may become more withdrawn, apathetic, or irritable. They may also have delusions or hallucinations. As the disease progresses, they may become more aggressive or violent.

There is no one way that a person with dementia acts. Each person is different and will display different behaviors at different times. This depends on the type of dementia they have.

Each form of dementia affects certain areas of the brain first. This can result in different behaviors. For example, people with Lewy body dementia may experience hallucinations more frequently than those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Again, if you are caring for someone with dementia, it is important to be patient and understand that their behavior changes are a result of the disease.

Try to provide a safe and comfortable environment for the person with dementia.

What Are Common Dementia Behaviors?

There are a number of common behaviors associated with dementia, which can be both distressing and disruptive.

It’s important to remember that these behaviors are often a reaction to the changes taking place in the brain, and are not deliberate attempts to upset or annoy others.

Some of the most common dementia behaviors include:

Memory loss: This is the most well-known symptom of dementia, and can be very distressing for both your elderly parent and all their loved ones.

Memory loss can cause forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty retaining new information.

Wandering: This is often one of the first signs that something is wrong, as it can be a sign that the person is disoriented and confused.

Wandering can also be a way of trying to satisfy an unmet need, such as looking for food or water.

Aggression: Aggressive behavior can be verbal (yelling, cursing) or physical (hitting, pushing). It’s often a reaction to frustration, fear, or anxiety.

Pacing: Pacing back and forth is another common behavior associated with dementia. It can be a sign of restlessness or agitation.

Repetitive behaviors: Repetitive behaviors, such as rubbing the hands together or mumbling to oneself, are often a sign of anxiety or boredom.

Inappropriate sexual behavior: This can be a difficult behavior to deal with, as it can be embarrassing and even dangerous.

It’s important to remember that this behavior is usually not deliberate and is often a result of the person’s confusion.

Hoarding: Many people with dementia become fixated on certain objects and may hoard them.

This behavior can be a result of the person’s anxiety about losing the object or simply because they find comfort in it.

Agitation: Agitation is a common behavior in people with dementia. It can be caused by many things, including pain, hunger, thirst, boredom, or fear.

Agitation can be very distressing for both the person with dementia and their caregivers.

Delusions: Delusions are a common behavior in people with dementia. They can be caused by many things, including changes in the brain.

Delusions can be very frightening for both the person with dementia and their caregivers.

Hallucinations: Hallucinations are a common behavior in people with dementia. They can be caused by many things, including changes in the brain.

Hallucinations can be very frightening for both the person with dementia and their caregivers.

Do Dementia Patients Know They Have Dementia?

Many people assume that those with dementia are not aware of their condition. However, this is not always the case.

Some patients may be acutely aware of their cognitive decline and the impact it has on their lives.

For others, dementia may progress to the point where they are no longer able to recognize their own symptoms.

Doctors and therapists may call this anosognosia.

Anosognosia is a condition where your brain can’t recognize one or more other health conditions you have. It’s extremely common with mental health conditions like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. This condition isn’t dangerous on its own, but people with it are much more likely to avoid or resist treatment for their other health conditions.

Someone with anosognosia is not denying the diagnosis, although it may seem that way. The brain damage caused by anosognosia impedes their ability to comprehend their diagnosis.

Do You Tell A Person With Dementia That They Have Dementia?

It’s a difficult question to answer, because there is no one “right” way to handle this situation.

It depends on many factors, such as the severity of the dementia, how well the person is coping, and whether they have been diagnosed by a doctor.

If the person has been diagnosed with dementia, it is important to remember that they are still the same person, despite the changes in their memory and thinking.

It is very helpful, especially at the beginning stages to treat them with respect and patience, and to try to keep things as normal as possible.

It can be difficult to know how to broach the subject of dementia with a parent. After all, no one wants to think that their mom or dad is losing their mental faculties.

However, it’s important to have the conversation sooner rather than later, if possible.

There are a few things to keep in mind when approaching this sensitive topic:

  • Be respectful and considerate of your parent’s feelings. It’s natural for them to be defensive and unwilling to face the reality of their diagnosis.
  • Choose a good time to talk. Avoid bringing it up during a hectic day or when your parent is already feeling overwhelmed.
  • Be prepared for their reaction. Your parent may become upset, angry, or even denial about their diagnosis. It’s important to be understanding and patient.
  • Offer support and resources. Let your parent know that you’re there for them and that there are resources available to help them cope with their diagnosis.
  • Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Talk to other family members or friends about how they would approach the conversation. It can be helpful to have a unified front when discussing such a sensitive topic.

If you have any concerns about how to tell a person with dementia about their diagnosis, you should speak to their doctor or another healthcare professional.

A counselor may also be able to help you.

Know that dementia is not a part of normal aging.

A new analysis suggests that about 3.4 million Americans age 71 and older — one in seven people in that age group — have dementia, and 2.4 million of them have Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

National Institutes Of Health

The most important advice that I can give every caregiver of someone with dementia is to understand that this disease changes how your patient thinks and perceives things.

Some examples of how this may show up are…

  • You see the keys on the countertop, don’t expect them to recognize that the thing on the countertop are keys.
  • You know that there’s a rug on the floor, they may perceive that rug as a hole or an obstacle to avoid.
  • You are watching an action flick on television with a lot of shooting and yelling, they may perceive this as something that is happening near or in the house.

Knowing how the disease affects your loved one’s thinking and perception can help you to be more understanding and compassionate when they act in ways that may seem strange or irrational to you.

It can also help you to better communicate with them, as you will know how to phrase things in a way that they are likely to understand.

Books That May Help You

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that if you believe your parent may have dementia, it’s important to get them properly tested.

If those tests do come back with a diagnosis of some type of dementia, then the next step is to begin preparing your loved one and yourself for what will come.

There is no cure for this disease and it is progress so it will continue to keep getting worse. It may even get to the point where you or anyone else in the family will simply be unable to care for your parent.

Speak with an elder law attorney about getting legal matters in order.

Speak with support groups of caregivers who are providing care for their loved ones with dementia and of course, read as much as you possibly can on this topic.

The more you know up front, the easier these next few years of your life (and your parent) will be.

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