Worried About Dementia?

Written by Dr. Stephanie Johnson

How To Know It’s Time To Have Your Loved One Checked For Dementia

When family members see their aging loved ones experiencing changes in memory, word finding, or other thinking abilities it is natural to want to attribute those changes to the normal effects of aging. Especially because patients themselves often invoke their age as an explanation for their symptoms. However, there are signs that can alert you to the need for further evaluation.

  • Quickly forgetting things and repeatedly asking people for the same information is problematic.
    • Sometimes forgetting names or items on a grocery list, but later remembering them, is typical as we age.
  • Confusion regarding the year, season, or month and forgetting where they are or how they got there should be cause for concern.
    • Being temporarily confused about the day of the week is typical.
  • Trouble joining in conversations, losing one’s train of thought in the middle of a conversation, and struggling with vocabulary are indications of significant difficulty.
    • Occasional trouble finding the right word can be typical as people age.
  • Trouble managing things at home is a cardinal sign that should cause concern. You may note your loved one has:
    • stopped preparing meals, perhaps relying instead on no-cook meals, microwavable options, or eating out;
    • experienced increasing difficulty managing finances, with missed or late payments or a lack of appreciation of their financial situation (e.g., excessive spending or unwise charitable donations);
    • difficulty managing the household, perhaps feeling incapable of identifying the steps required to hire a handyman to complete repairs, and thus allowing their home to fall into disrepair.
    • Note – Eating out more frequently than in the past as a way to socialize or occasionally making a payment late are considered typical.
  • Increases in agitation, confusion, suspicion, fear, and anxiety are suggestive of concerning personality changes. These symptoms may result in increased security measures such as hiding objects (e.g., wallets) and then experiencing increased concern upon being unable to locate them.
    • Becoming temporarily irritable when routine is disrupted can be typical.

Where any doubt exists, a formal evaluation by a neuropsychologist is the only to way to rule out Alzheimer’s disease or other causes of dementia. See our upcoming blog post on how to approach your parent about being screened for dementia.