Cognitive lapses are fairly common among older adults, with subjective cognitive decline affecting roughly one in nine people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s natural to be concerned that a loved one might experience dementia, Alzheimer’s or a similar brain decline in older age.
How can you tell whether cognitive decline might be happening to someone you know and love? Here are four things to look for:
Increasing forgetfulness. If you’ve noticed that your mom or dad tends to have increasing trouble remembering routine tasks, or if you’ve seen that more and more appointments are being missed, advancing cognitive decline may be a factor. You also might notice that your loved one is forgetting recent conversations or events. “Some cognitive decline can occur as adults age,” according to the CDC, “but frequently forgetting how to perform routine tasks, for example, is not a normal part of aging and can affect a person’s ability to live and function independently.”
Difficulty understanding directions. After a visit to the doctor, for example, your loved one might struggle to follow instructions about taking pills. Getting lost more easily can be a sign, too — like getting “turned around” more often in the grocery store.
Increases in impulsivity. Perhaps your loved one has been buying things online that he wouldn’t have in the past or is showing other signs of acting without thinking.
Changes in hygiene, appetite or organization. Becoming increasingly messy at home or disorganized in how tasks are conducted can be another symptom. Decreased hygiene and reduced appetite also can be warning signs.
It’s important to remember that signs of cognitive impairment may be mistaken for other issues, as experts at Emory University have detailed. Some medications, for example, may cause side effects like drowsiness or mental slowness. Hearing issues can make it harder for people to follow along in a conversation, and arthritis or other pains can cause problems with concentration.
If you see any of these signs in an elderly loved one, reach out to Dementia Support Northwest here in Whatcom County for a memory screening to get a better handle on what might be the issue.
And if you do find that a loved one needs ongoing assistance, hiring an at-home caregiver can be one way to assist loved ones who might need increasing levels of support. Caregivers can devote as little or as much time as is needed to ensure the proper amount of attention and support for loved ones in Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale and the rest of Whatcom County.