Dementia is one of the scariest and saddest age-related conditions there is. Because people fear it, they often misunderstand it. For one thing, it is not as common as you might think. While nearly one-third of people over the age of 85 have dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease, many maintain cognitive function in their 80s and 90s. Dementia affects 1 out of 10 people over the age of 65.
Another persistent misconception is that dementia is a disease in itself. Instead, it is a symptom caused by several underlying disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease but not limited to it. However, understanding the early symptoms of dementia and watching out for them in your parents can be to both your benefit and theirs.
It’s Important To Understand the Signs of Dementia
If your parents develop dementia, it affects their ability to take care of themselves. Managing the symptoms can be accomplished more effectively when intervention begins in the early stages. If you know the signs of dementia and recognize them, you can help your parents get the help they need to maintain their quality of life.
Another good reason to understand and recognize dementia symptoms is to recognize the difference between normal aging processes and dementia to avoid unnecessarily worrying yourself and your parents. Most people experience bouts of mild confusion or forgetfulness from time to time, regardless of age. These minimal losses are benign and not necessarily signs of cognitive decline.
8 Signs of Dementia in Parents to Watch for
One quality that differentiates symptoms of dementia from normal age-related changes is that dementia signs tend to harm your parents’ ability to function. As you watch for the signs of the following symptoms from your parents, consider the overall effect on their day-to-day lives and look for troubling patterns.
1. Mood or Personality Changes
It is usual for elderly parents to have sudden changes in mood from time to time, especially when their established routine is disrupted. However, people living with dementia may exhibit anxiety, confusion, depression, fear, and suspicion. These changes may be more pronounced when faced with a situation that takes them out of their comfort zone but can also occur with friends or at home.
2. Withdrawal From Social Activities
From time to time, elderly parents may be uninterested in social or family activities, which is normal. People living with dementia may frequently withdraw from social engagements or hobbies that they once enjoyed. This results from difficulties following conversations.
3. New and Persistent Problems With Speaking and Writing
People of any age may have difficulty finding the right word from time to time. However, patients with dementia are more likely to call people by the wrong name and struggle with vocabulary to the point that it is difficult to hold up their end of the conversation.
4. Confusion With Place and Time
If your parents occasionally get confused about the day of the week but figure it out later, it is not a cause for concern. However, if they consistently have trouble with dates or lose track of the passage of time and the seasons, those are warning signs of dementia. Another major red flag is if they don’t know where they are or forgot how they got there.
5. Losing the Ability To Retrace Steps
It is normal to misplace things from time to time, but if your parents can no longer find them by retracing their steps, it may be a sign of dementia. People with dementia sometimes become suspicious when they cannot find things and accuse others of taking them.
6. Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Patients with dementia may exhibit an inability to perform tasks that have been routine for them for many years. For example, they may need reminding of the rules of their favorite game or have trouble driving to a familiar location.
7. Short-Term Memory Loss
Patients with dementia have difficulty recalling information that they learned recently. As a result, they may rely on memory aids for things they used to handle without help. They may ask repetitive questions because they don’t remember that they already inquired.
8. Challenges With Problem Solving
Occasional errors with household bills or finances are normal. However, if your parents have difficulty working with numbers, e.g., keeping track of bills, or following a plan, e.g., cooking with a recipe, it could mean that dementia is affecting their problem-solving ability and concentration.
What Should You Do?
Early symptoms of dementia in parents may be present to varying degrees. If you notice troubling patterns such as these in your parents’ behavior, you should not ignore them as they are likely to become worse. You should discuss your concerns with your parents, visit your family doctor as soon as possible.