Spotting Cognitive Changes in a Senior Loved One

November 21, 2021

On a busy day, most of us can easily forget a few things. You might fail to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home or to buy milk. When forgetfulness begins to impact a senior’s life in a more profound way, however, it can be a sign that something might be wrong.

While forgetfulness can be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, some other changes are also warning signs of a problem.

What symptoms should you be looking for in an ageing loved one? Here are a few to be mindful of.

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Cognitive Changes that Might Be Signs of Alzheimer’s

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, signs of cognitive decline that may signal it’s time to talk with the senior’s GP include:

• Getting lost going to or from familiar destinations

• Having trouble finding the right words when not under stress

• Decreased ability to plan, or problem-solve

• Becoming confused by simple directions

• Mismanaging finances or falling victim to fraud

• Difficulty maintaining a conversation

• Forgetting an important event and not remembering later

• Having trouble concentrating on tasks like reading

• Regularly misplacing things around the home, such as car keys or glasses

• Losing track of what day or time it is, possibly even what year

• Struggling to complete tasks that require memory or abstract thought

• Change in disposition, especially becoming quick to anger

• Withdrawing from favourite social activities or religious services

If you are beginning to consistently notice these signs in your loved one, don’t wait to take action. Start a calendar or journal to track what you see occurring. Also, note what was happening when the changes appeared. When you feel you are spotting a trend, it’s probably time to talk about what you have noticed with your loved one in a gentle way, and schedule a review with their doctor. Take your notes along, as that will be useful in determining what might be happening.

As troubling as some changes can feel, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. Other health conditions cause the same symptoms, many of which can be treated.

Common Health Issues That Mimic Alzheimer’s

Suppose you and your senior loved one visit their GP. In that case, the doctor will likely want to eliminate the possibility of a health condition known to mimic Alzheimer’s. A few they may look for during the examination and any follow-up testing include:

  • Dehydration
  • Thyroid disease
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency, especially vitamin B12 or iron
  • Undetected infection, commonly a urinary tract infection
  • Adverse reaction to or side effects of medications
  • Depression (sometimes referred to as pseudodementia in seniors)

With timely intervention, these conditions can often be treated, and the symptoms reversed. But if the diagnosis turns out to be dementia - there are services to help your loved one to live the best quality of life.

Mayflower’s home care services can assist with everything from personal care to dementia support. If you prefer the security of an aged care home for your loved one, Mayflower’s dementia care program is another option. Contact us today to learn all the ways we can support your efforts to provide a high-quality life for a loved one with dementia, despite their disease.