What To Do When You Suspect Your Parent May Have Dementia - Della Devoted

What To Do When You Suspect Your Parent May Have Dementia

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There are few things more important to life as family. We all have an obligation to take good care of our family just as they take care of us. It goes without saying that those of the Christian faith spend their lives with a strong biblical perspective on the importance of family but by no means is the love and care of the family unit something that’s limited by bias of faith and culture. Whether we are of the Christian faith or indeed any faith, one thing we all grow up with is the inclination to honor our father and mother and give them the same love and care in their dotage that they gave us when growing up.

With this in mind, it can be an extremely stressful and upsetting time for us when we suspect that a beloved parent may have dementia. While many of us show signs of slowing down cognitively as we age, it’s important to know the difference between an attack of “brain fog” and the symptoms of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Here we’ll look at how to spot the signs of dementia and what you can do if you suspect that a parent may be a sufferer.

Knowing the signs

As with any illness, the key to effective treatment is an early and effective diagnosis. The trouble is that many with dementia can be reticent to admit it and extremely apprehensive when it comes to getting in front of a medical expert. The most important first step you can take is to know the signs of dementia and be mindful of when and where you see the symptoms manifest. This will help you to make the case to them and to convince them that it is in their best interests to come out of their comfort zone and seek the treatment they need and deserve.

Keep an eye out for the following behaviors;

Difficulty learning new things or developing new skills- Many older people are fairly resistant to new technologies (especially when it seems to evolve at such a staggering pace), but when your parent shows difficulty using a new gadget like a new smartphone, TV remote or new car this can actually be an early sign of dementia.

Bad judgment / poor decision making- Our parents have always been there for us in our teenage years when we showed impulsive behavior or poor decision making. The reason why we tend to engage in these behaviors when we are young is because we do not have a well developed prefrontal cortex. This prevents us from fully measuring the consequences of our actions and engaging in more reckless behaviors. However, dementia can also affect the frontal lobe of the brain, leading to bad judgment, poor decision making and recklessness.

Forgetting big things- Little things like forgetting where we put the car keys or when that dentist appointment was are neurological misfires that happen even to the best of us. Anything from not eating enough to failing to drink enough water can lead us to forget the little things. When our parents forget big things, however, like what month or year it is then this may point to more serious issues.

Difficulty managing finances- Do you push open their door to see an ever-growing pile of unpaid bills on the doormat? Failing to keep up with finances is another common sign of dementia.

Lethargy and depression- It can be heartbreaking when a parent appears to be losing their joie de vivre and interest in their hobbies and leisure activities. If your parent shows a diminished interest in their favorite leisure activities it can also be an indicator that they may be suffering from dementia.

Repeating themselves- Many parents have a habit of cracking the same jokes again and again. However, if they tell you the same thing multiple times in a short space of time this may also be a key indicator of dementia.

If you notice any or all of these symptoms the next step is to…

Keep track

Dementia is not the kind of illness that creeps up on us overnight. It tends to be slow and gradual making it hard to keep track of, especially for the sufferer. Although it may feel intrusive and cold, the kindest thing you can do for them is to keep track of instances of the above symptoms. This will help you to build a case for why they should seek medical attention for their potential condition. It will also help a medical expert to make an effective diagnosis and administer the correct cognitive or pharmaceutical treatment.  

Talk with an expert

If you’re at all unsure about how to broach the subject of dementia with a loved one, perhaps you may benefit from the advice of an expert. Even if the prospect of residential care is a long way away it may be worth liaising with someone from a residential care provider like Parc Provence. These are people who spend all day every day working with people with various forms of dementia and preparing bespoke and individualized care packages for them and their advice may well be invaluable to you. There are also charities like Alz.org who provide a plethora of free advice and information.  

Although they will be unable to discuss confidential information with you, it may also be worth talking to your family doctor and seeking advice on how to...

Encourage them to seek treatment

Ultimately, the most important thing that you can do for a parent suffering from dementia is to encourage them to seek the treatment that they need. Show them the evidence that you have gathered and impress upon them that things are not going to get better of their own accord. Explain to them that there are many different kinds of dementia and getting the right treatment now can make all the difference later.

Give them your support, love and empathy

Finally, the most effective thing you can do for them is to remind them that come what may you will always be by their side to give them the love, support, empathy and compassion that they need in this difficult time. Just as they were your rock as you navigated the trials of your early years, so will you be theirs!

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