It is not always easy to tell the signs of dementia from normal, age-related changes in memory and mood. But when you notice symptoms in a loved one getting progressively worse and starting to impact daily life, it may be time to find out more.
Although early symptoms can vary from person to person, the 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease is a good place to start. If these symptoms of memory loss, confusion or social withdrawal on the Alzheimer’s Association list seem familiar or leave any doubt, consult a physician.
Early detection can lead to earlier treatments. Medications can slow progression of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Another benefit of taking action early is together choosing the right place for residential services, should the need arise in the future. That way, a skilled nursing facility will not seem completely unfamiliar, which can be disorienting to someone with more advanced dementia.
When Things Get Overwhelming
Often, adult children face the difficult decision of caring for a parent starting to show signs of dementia. “The decision about when is the right time to move a parent with Alzheimer’s to a care facility is always challenging,” says Kenneth Robbins, MD, a geriatrician and Senior Medical Editor at Caring.com. “As someone’s dementia progresses, it is important they are in a safe place in which they have care when they need it 24 hours a day, and where they can continue to be active, both physically and mentally. It requires real skill to know how to continue to keep people with dementia active, without asking so much they feel stressed.”
“At some point it is simply not possible to provide all this yourself,” Dr. Robbins says.
Find a Facility with Dementia Expertise
Some skilled nursing centers specialize more in the treatment of people living with dementia than others. When you visit facilities with your loved one, it is worth asking about the expertise of their staff and how they keep patients with cognitive impairment safe and engaged as much as possible. Also narrow down the list of residential services for dementia by looking at quality ratings – the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rank skilled nursing facilities nationwide, for example, based on an easy to understand 1 star to 5 star system, with 4 or 5 stars denoting the highest quality.
Some memory issues and moments of confusion are normal signs of aging. However, it is important to recognize when symptoms point to early dementia and seek medical care. Dementia generally develops slowly over time but continues to worsen, so identify options for high-quality residential services before the need becomes more urgent.