This blog started back in 2012 when we were in the early stages of my parents dementia. We knew something was wrong, but there was no diagnosis at this point and neither parent was concerned about their “senior moments”. By the time my parent’s were finally diagnosed, they were both in moderate stages of dementia. Mom was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia and my Dad with Alzheimer’s.
You are going to notice changes in thinking and behavior long before there will ever be a diagnosis.
EARLY: This is the most difficult period because you are witnessing changes in behavior and thinking, but the person you are concerned for doesn’t recognize these changes. Instead of focusing on pointing out concerns, focus on understanding their future life plans and lifestyle wishes. Common symptoms include:
- losing track of the time
- trouble finding words
- becoming lost in familiar places
This graph from the University of Queensland contains some common signs and symptoms. Because there can be a wide variety of causes, some that are reversible, seeing a doctor early and raising concerns is advisable.
- Recent memory loss that affects job skills
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
- Problems with language
- Disorientation of time and place
- Poor or decreased judgement
- Problems with abstract thinking
- Misplacing things frequently or putting things in unusual places
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Changes in personality
- Loss of initiative
MIDDLE: You have a diagnosis and cognitive issues have been documented during a neurological assessment. In general, the individual will be unable to distinguish a loss of skills and therefore will not see any reason to make make changes to lifestyle. You may notice more clutter in the home, issues with bill payments, and maybe a few more dings on the car than before. Now is the right time to work in tandem with this person to help them maintain their lifestyle. At this point, a Durable and Medical Power of Attorney should be in place.
You may see some of these systems on a regular basis:
- becoming forgetful of recent events and people’s names
- becoming lost at home
- having increasing difficulty with communication
- needing help with personal care
- experiencing behavior changes, including wandering and repeated questioning
LATE STAGE: You loved one may not recognize you and needs full time care. Common symptoms include:
- lack of awareness of time and place
- difficulty recognizing relatives and friends
- an increasing need for assisted self-care
- difficulty walking and eating
- aggressive behavior
END-OF-LIFE. The most painful of all. You will make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time you need to make it. Be kind to yourself and find peace in this time with your loved one.