Many older adults worry about dementia. The aging process normally includes some forgetfulness, but dementia is quite different.
reduced ability to multitask. The aging brain simply needs to slow down and do one thing at a time. It may take longer to do things, but they do get done.
slower recall. An older adult might not remember a word or event right away, but will eventually. It might take a few minutes, or hours, but the memory will surface.
Dementia is more disorienting
It involves the inability to make new memories. It’s like a blank slate. The memory just isn’t there. The event didn’t stick. Dementia also involves losing the ability to do even common activities, such as use a phone or make change. Tasks that require multiple steps will become increasingly difficult.
The early stage of dementia can be one of confusion, fear, and depression. Even if there is no formal diagnosis, the person with the memory issue often senses that something is wrong. And he or she may still have enough self-awareness to understand the consequences of a disease such as Alzheimer’s. It’s equally likely that the person may not recognize their own decline. They just don’t recall recent events. It’s nothing they are doing on purpose. It’s not like they can “try harder.” They can’t. The memories simply don’t form.
In the early stages, you may not even know there is a problem. Your family member may just seem a little less “with it.” People are very adept at compensating. And if your relative is married, a spouse may naturally take up the slack. But if you suspect something is not right, get a full medical assessment just to be sure.
Early diagnosis is important. Medications are available that can slow the progression of the symptoms. And it may be that your loved one’s confusion is caused by something such as depression, which can be cured. The sooner your family member gets tested, the sooner treatment can begin.
Deciding who to tell and when. Many people feel ashamed of a diagnosis of dementia. And some people or situations may become uncomfortable once a diagnosis is disclosed. This is a very personal decision.
Concern about driving. Driving requires thinking and good spatial skills. Dementia impairs both of these. The person with dementia is not likely to even recognize they have a problem. Everyone will eventually need to retire from driving. Knowing exactly when to stop is complicated. Read our article about driving safely and talk with the doctor.
Depression is big. Depression can cause many of the same symptoms as dementia. And, a person with memory problems can get very frustrated and feel very blue. Especially after a formal diagnosis, it is not uncommon for the patient to become depressed. The good news is that depression can be treated. Staying on top of the depression can at least lessen the number of factors contributing to your relative’s confusion or distress.
Join a support group. People in the early stages of dementia have special problems and needs. So do their family members. Gathering with others can provide a tremendous amount of comfort for you both. You are also likely to learn valuable tips for handling common situations.
Important legal and financial decisions. This is the time to make decisions about financial and medical matters. Now, when your loved one is still able to assess options, he or she should complete an advance directive. Your relative should also arrange for a will or living trust. He or she should assign a person to handle finances when managing money becomes too difficult. See our article about proxy decision makers in Your Changing Role.
GRS provides outstanding consultative services. We found the support provided to us essential in dealing with my wife's cognitive problem over the years. The resources the website provides on as an ongoing aid are also very helpful.
Bonnie (and her company) were an enormous help with my mom’s care as she started declining over a 2-year period. Bonnie was there for mom every step of the way with kindness, patience, wisdom and resources. She got us signed up with a terrific sitter agency; helped me move mom from independent living to assisted living; and helped me with lots and lots of confusing paperwork. I cannot recommend her highly enough.
A few years ago, my mother experienced a life-altering fall, and I was faced with navigating the elder care system in search of solutions. After doing an initial round of research and feeling totally overwhelmed, I was fortunate enough to find Bonnie Noble Silberman and her team at GRS, Inc. These professionals KNOW the elder-care industry and helped me make the best decisions possible—in our case moving my mom to an assisted living facility. They also took a holistic approach, getting to know my mother and fully understand our family’s situation in evaluating options. And when things changed, as they always do, Bonnie was there with me every step of the way—advocating for my mom’s best interests, looking for solutions as needs arose, and all along, providing me, the caregiver, with support, information, and sanity checks. Bonnie and her team were always available to me and was especially helpful when it came to accountability measures with providers. Without reservation, I highly recommend Bonnie and the GRS, Inc. team as partners in making important decisions regarding care for seniors.