Understanding Dementia: Recognizing the Early Signs in Aging Loved Ones

By November 14, 2023 Senior Living
recognizing early signs of dementia

As we journey through life, we may find ourselves in the role of caregiver to our aging parents or other loved ones, and nearly 1 in 10 of them will have dementia or cognitive impairment.

A recent study, the first of its kind in two decades, found that roughly 10% of adults age 65 and older in the United States have dementia, and an additional 22% experience mild cognitive impairment.

This transition poses new challenges and responsibilities, making it essential to understand the signs of dementia and dementia symptoms. By being informed and proactive, you can make a significant difference in your loved one’s life, ensuring they receive the support and care they deserve.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the early signs of dementia and how to recognize them in your aging parent or other relative. We’ll also highlight how The Carrington at Lincolnwood’s progressive approach to long-term memory care provides peace of mind for families.

10 Signs to Look For in Your Aging Loved One

  1. Memory loss that impacts daily life: While occasional forgetfulness is normal, significant memory loss that disrupts daily routines may be an early sign of dementia. Pay attention to repeated forgetfulness of important dates, events or appointments.
  2. Difficulty with problem-solving: Struggling to solve simple problems or make plans, like following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills, can indicate cognitive decline.
  3. Confusion with time or place: People with dementia may lose track of time, dates or seasons. They may also become disoriented, even in familiar places.
  4. Trouble with visual images and spatial relationships: This symptom may manifest as difficulty reading, judging distances, or identifying colors and contrasts, affecting driving abilities.
  5. Challenges in speaking or writing: A person with dementia may have trouble following or joining conversations, repeat themselves frequently or struggle to find the right words.
  6. Misplacing items and being unable to retrace steps: It’s common for those with dementia to put things in unusual places and then struggle to retrace their steps. Keep an eye out for everyday items ending up in unusual spots.
  7. Decreased judgment: Individuals with dementia may display poor judgment when making decisions about money, personal hygiene or social interactions. They may also fall victim to scams more easily.
  8. Withdrawal from work or social activities: People with dementia might withdraw from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may also need help keeping up with their favorite activities.
  9. Changes in mood and personality: Dementia can lead to rapid mood swings, including becoming irritable, suspicious, fearful or anxious. These shifts in personality can be challenging for the affected individual and their loved ones.
  10. Dealing [or Coping] with everyday tasks: Look for signs of struggling with basic daily activities, such as dressing, bathing or cooking. Dementia can impair the ability to complete these tasks independently.

If you notice any of these 10 of dementia in your aging loved ones, consult a health care professional for a thorough evaluation. Early diagnosis can help you access the appropriate resources, treatment and support to improve their quality of life.

A Closer Look at the Seven Stages of Dementia Symptoms

Gaining insight into the stages of dementia symptoms can help you assess its development in your loved one. Although these stages offer a general outline, dementia’s progression can vary widely among individuals. Each individual’s path is unique, underscoring the importance of early detection for providing optimal care and support.

Stage 1: No impairment (pre-dementia). In this stage, individuals show no signs of cognitive decline and function independently.

Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline. Minor memory lapses are common in this stage, such as forgetting names or where they placed items.

Stage 3: Mild cognitive decline. Early signs of dementia may emerge, including difficulty with planning and organizing. Friends and family may notice these changes.

Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline. In this stage, individuals may struggle with complex tasks, such as handling finances or traveling independently. Memory gaps become more evident.

Stage 5: Moderately severe cognitive decline. At this point, daily activities like dressing and bathing become challenging without assistance. Individuals may remember essential information about themselves but forget significant details like their address.

Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline. In this stage, dementia patients need extensive help with daily tasks. They may have difficulty recognizing familiar faces, including family members.

Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline (late-stage dementia). In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to communicate verbally, move independently and control their movements. They may become bedridden and require 24/7 care.

Dementia Risk Factors: Who’s Most Susceptible?

Several factors can increase the risk of dementia. Age is a significant factor, with older adults being more susceptible, although dementia is not a normal part of aging. A family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease suggests a possible genetic component. Specific genetic factors also can heighten the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

Also, women are at a higher risk of dementia due to longer lifespans. Poor cardiovascular health, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and a history of head injuries, especially concussions, can also contribute to dementia risk. Chronic health conditions like depression, sleep disorders and obesity are associated with higher dementia risk. Environmental factors might also play a role.

Personalized Memory Care and Peace of Mind

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to strengthen your bond and create meaningful moments together. Remember, you’re not alone, and there are numerous resources, support groups and organizations available to assist you every step of the way.

If your loved one shows signs of memory loss, The Carrington at Lincolnwood offers Tessera Long-Term Memory Care, an innovative neighborhood-style approach. Our compassionate staff focuses on individualized activities, emphasizing the significance of what still exists rather than dwelling on what’s been lost, to craft a tailored and purposeful community.

Even if your loved one doesn’t need memory care now, MOSAIC at The Carrington works seamlessly with independent living and assisted living and offers care options so they can continue living at The Carrington even if transitioning to higher-level memory care becomes necessary in the future.

Explore The Carrington’s innovative and dignified memory care solutions for your loved ones, then contact us to schedule a time to visit our community in person.

Featured Image: Fizkes/Shutterstock

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