Unlike many health conditions, which tend to develop or at least come to light all at once, dementia comes on gradually and the signs can be confusing and easy to miss. The dementia symptoms that most people find familiar – memory loss, confusion and disorientation – are not the only signs that someone may be developing Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
Dementia symptoms can also include delusions, agitation, sleeplessness, and extreme personality changes that can profoundly affect what your family member needs from their living situation. Whether your loved one is living independently, in assisted living, or with you, you may begin to feel that they have specialized needs that aren’t being met. If this sounds like what you’re feeling, it may be time to investigate whether your loved one could benefit from a memory care community with experienced staff who are well trained to provide care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Here are a few early warning signs it’s time to consider moving your loved one to memory care.
You worry about them constantly.
People with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss may become confused, wander and/or become agitated very easily. This can put them into all sorts of situations that could endanger their health and safety. When evaluating your loved one’s safety, look inward and reflect. How often each day do you worry about them, check on them, or make a call regarding their safety or whereabouts? If it’s a lot, you may have some decisions to make.
Their personal hygiene is suffering.
It’s not easy to talk about body odor, but it can provide one of the top clues that your loved one is losing the ability to care for themself. Look for other changes in appearance as well, such as unwashed or wrinkled clothes, or putting clothes on backwards or inside out. You may notice that grooming practices that were once important to them are no longer happening. If your father, formerly clean-shaven, starts looking stubbly, he may be forgetting to shave or even how to shave. If your formerly well-coiffed mother begins to look shaggy, she may be missing or forgetting to make her hair appointments. Granted, changes to businesses that are open during COVID-19 has caused many to neglect regular hair appointments, but if this is something that has always been important to them, they will likely express frustration that they no longer have these resources. If they don’t seem to care about their appearance any longer, there may be an issue.
They are not properly taking care of their health.
When someone has memory loss, one of the first of their care needs to take a nose-dive is medication management. Failing to take prescribed medications on schedule – or taking too much or too little – can lead to serious health problems. Chronic conditions can worsen rapidly if Alzheimer’s interferes with your loved one’s ability to manage treatment. They may miss regular appointments with their physician or dentist. Dementia may also affect your loved one’s ability to prepare and eat a nutritious diet. You may notice food on the counter that should have been refrigerated, or that that the food in their fridge has expired or gone bad – and they’re still eating it. They may even be skipping meals altogether.
You notice unexplained physical changes.
Weight changes, frailty, hunched posture, and moving with difficulty can all indicate that one’s ability to navigate the world is declining. Your loved one may be losing weight because they forget to eat, or they may be gaining weight because they forget they’ve already eaten and then eat again. Hunched posture and moving slowly can be signs of being unsure – do they know where they are going?
Their living conditions have become unusual.
Whether your loved one lives independently or in senior living, check their physical environment whenever you can. If you notice burn or scorch marks, mold or water damage, it may provide important clues to their mental state. Memory loss makes it much more likely that someone will leave the oven on or drop a dishtowel on top of a burner and not notice the smoke. Or leave the bathtub water running and cause a flood. Even spills that haven’t been wiped up suggest loss of attention.
If you’ve become concerned about your loved one and think it may be time to explore memory care, reach out to the team at Serra Sol or check out this related article on why it’s beneficial to choose memory care sooner rather than later in your loved one’s dementia journey.