Every day, in the United States alone, thousands of families find out that their loved ones have been diagnosed with some form of dementia. With the number of reported cases of Alzheimer's growing every year, this has become an unfortunate but common reality for countless families. After receiving a dementia diagnosis, many families wonder what do we do next?
This answer is different for every family and there is no complete guide on how to handle a dementia diagnosis once it happens. Seniors progress at different speeds and levels when it comes to their dementia. Different seniors may behave in different ways or have different challenges. However, there are a few key behaviors that every senior caregiver or loved one should try to track after their loved one has been diagnosed. Paying close attention to these behaviors can help any family member make certain that their loved one is staying as safe and as healthy as possible.
These are some key behaviors that may illuminate more serious issues that need to be addressed, or that can let you know it is time to visit the doctor.
Participating in Activities
Many seniors can continue life as normal for some time following a dementia diagnosis. However, some seniors may start avoiding their favorite activities, even if they are perfectly capable of doing the things they love. Sometimes this has to do with shame or embarrassment over their diagnosis, or it can be a sign of depression. There are some seniors who may feel uncomfortable engaging in their favorite activities and fear that they may forget something or make a poor decision.
When you notice your loved one is being reclusive in this manner and avoiding the things they love the most, you may be dealing with some serious depression issues and may need to step in to get that senior help so they can get back to enjoying the life that they deserve.
Just because a person has been diagnosed with dementia, it doesn't mean that they need to have all their independence stripped from them. Any senior with this condition should still be allowed to make their own decisions, within reason. However, as a family member or loved one, it is important to still pay close attention to the decisions that they are making.
Cooking can become hazardous as short-term memory declines. They may be distracted after they begin cooking or not notice if the pilot light doesn’t ignite the flame when they turn on the gas. Forgetting about food cooking on the stove or in the oven can not only make food overcooked and unappealing, it can also be dangerous. Some families disconnect large appliances but continue allowing the senior to operate a microwave or toaster oven as long as they can safely do so.
If their judgment seems clouded, and the senior is making poor decisions for themselves or for others, then it may be time to assist. Maybe they are acting confused or reckless, spending money in unusual ways, or making poor choices with what they eat or drink. When their ability to make sound judgments starts to falter, you may need to step in.
Learning New Concepts
One surprising behavior that loved ones need to pay attention to is a senior's ability to learn new concepts. While many people assume that dementia challenges only have to do with memory, this condition impacts multiple areas of the brain.
You may notice that the senior is unable to learn or grasp new concepts or lessons. For example, if the senior has a new television in their home with a new remote, and consistently can't learn to use the new remote, it may be a sign that their dementia is worsening.
This is also a sign that it is becoming difficult for the senior to live on their own as they find themselves unable to comprehend the ideas, tasks or questions that come their way.
One way to determine if dementia is impacting the quality of life for a senior is to pay attention to whether the senior is missing appointments and other commitments. If they start forgetting about things they need to do, appointments they have written down or visitors they have coming, then it can start to impact their quality of life.
Start to check in on the senior to make sure they are making the commitments that they have. This is a great way to make sure that the senior isn't missing out on life or important obligations, such as doctor's appointments or family events, because of their dementia.
Memory and Recall
Most individuals with dementia will eventually form some significant memory and recall issues. However, while this behavior is to be expected, it is still something that needs to be monitored. Occasional memory loss and scattered issues with recall are normal parts of dementia. However, when these memory issues start to impact the senior's ability to function on their own, or their overall quality of life, it may be time to step in with some type of care solution.
Friends and family members should be monitoring the senior's ability to recall information. Forgetting where a parking spot is from time to time is much different than forgetting where they are, or what they are doing.
There are a few ways to track memory issues in order to determine if they are getting worse or not. Look for signs that the senior is forgetting the same thing repeatedly. Whether it is where their keys are kept or forgetting that they told the same story repeatedly. Tracking memory loss to see how quickly it gets worse is one of the best ways to determine how rapidly dementia is progressing and when the right time is to get that senior the help they need.
Wandering is perhaps one of the most serious behaviors that individuals with dementia tend to exhibit and it is one that should be tracked closely. The first time there is an issue with wandering, it is time to consider some type of assistance for the senior. Wandering can put seniors in very dangerous situations and be a threat to their lives, so it is a behavior that should be taken seriously.
As a family member or loved one of someone with dementia, it is important to pay close attention to how this individual's disease continues to progress. There are many resources and services available to help promote independence and to make life more comfortable for those in any stage of dementia.