Is my parent struggling because they have undiagnosed dementia?
May 10, 2022
Your aging parent has been struggling, and you’re beginning to wonder whether it could be related to Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.
Perhaps they’ve been experiencing some memory problems or confusion. Or they’re constantly repeating themselves, forgetting what was said only minutes before. Or their behaviour has changed. They don’t seem like themselves, perhaps becoming socially withdrawn or flying off the handle more than usual. Or maybe they’re just not looking after themselves like they used to. They need help with basic activities like dressing and personal hygiene.
Consider other possible causes first
It’s natural to assume that dementia may be the cause of these changes. But before reaching that conclusion, it’s important to consider other possible causes as well. Why? Well, some other causes may actually be treatable.
For instance, there might be any number of reasons your parent is confused, particularly if it’s a recent development. Yes, it could be dementia, but it also could be a urinary tract infection or an interaction between some of their medications or any number of other medical issues.
And if they do have one or more of these other problems and these problems are treated successfully, you may find that the confusion clears up.
That’s why your parent should get a proper medical assessment anytime their condition changes significantly. Even if they’ve already been diagnosed with dementia, other reversible problems may be making their issues worse and should receive attention.
What if their struggles are due to dementia?
Suppose that, after your parent gets a proper medical work up, it’s revealed that dementia is the main reason they’re struggling. If that’s the case, they may need more support than what’s available in their current home.
Assisted living in a senior living community can work for a lot of people in the early stages of dementia when they’re still fairly independent and may only need help with a few daily activities and transportation. But as their dementia progresses, they may begin to experience one or more of the following problems:
Trouble finding words
Uncharacteristic behaviours (possibly including emotional outbursts)
Increasing disorientation to time, place, and people
Difficulty with spatial perception (e.g. may start having trouble figuring out how to put on certain items of clothing)
Disrupted sleeping and eating patterns
Social withdrawal or depression
How memory care can help
Good memory care has staff who are specially trained to support residents with these sorts of issues. Because people with dementia at this stage often have a hard time articulating their needs, it’s up to staff to figure out what’s at the root of their struggles. They do this by spending time getting to know each resident and observing them closely.
This level of individualized attention – something that’s typically not available in assisted living – allows memory care staff to tailor their approach to your parent’s specific needs. They’ll focus on activities that your parent still enjoys and provide support so the experience is failure-free. If your parent becomes frustrated, staff will be able to calm and redirect them based on an understanding of their unique emotional triggers.
Even as your parent’s dementia progresses, good memory care programs will continue to give them a sense of purpose and belonging, of being valued and loved as a person.
Need more advice?
Sometimes it’s helpful to talk with someone who understands what you’re going through. Everyday, we help people whose parents have dementia. It doesn’t matter whether you’re considering memory care for them or not. We’re here for you if you’d like to talk.