When our parents or loved ones get older we may notice that their memory has started to slip. Naturally, their memories won’t remain as sharp as they age. With all of us, changes occur in hormone levels as we age and these hormonal shifts impact our brain activity. Forgetting where things were placed or the names of new acquaintances are perfectly normal for someone advanced in age. A little forgetfulness here and there is usually nothing to worry about. However, there are certain recurring signs and symptoms that you may need to pay attention to for the sake of your aging parent’s cognitive health.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition and type of dementia that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. There are currently more than five million adults in the United States that are actively living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The more informed you are, about the disease, the sooner you may be able to recognize Alzheimer’s symptoms and help get your aging parent the needed care. Take note of five common Alzheimer’s signs to watch for that may indicate you need to seek the help of a memory care specialist.
1. Difficulty Problem-Solving
If you notice that your parent is having difficulty with problem-solving could be a sign of a deeper problem than simply losing some sharpness with age. If your parent was an accountant for years, but suddenly has trouble balancing a checkbook, this might be a sign of cognitive decline. Along these same lines, if your parent forgets the rules to a favorite card game or the ingredients to a dish they’ve always made it might be a sign of mild cognitive impairment, one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. If your parent has a difficult time processing new ideas or working through normal tasks and seems to have an increasing memory problem, you might consider a trip to a specialist.
2. Difficulty Having Conversations
Difficulty following or participating in a conversation might indicate that your parent is experiencing cognitive decline. Issues such as losing the train of thought mid-conversation, repeating thoughts, struggling with vocabulary, or difficulty recalling ideas are all symptoms of early types of dementia and cognitive impairment. It is also important to note that these symptoms of dementia, when observed in isolation, could just be a symptom of old age. Try to note if the symptoms of memory problems are adding up to indicate a cognitive decline. Problems with conversation are just one piece of the puzzle.
3. Confusion About Dates and Times
Forgetting the day of the week happens to all of us at the best of times. However, if your parent has a hard time remembering appointments or plans or even the year or month, it might be a sign that they are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Again, this alone doesn’t signal issues, but it could be part of the larger picture.
4. Changes in Personality
While personality changes can be common as we age, it’s something to keep an eye on. Noticeable differences in your parent’s personality may indicate more than normal memory loss. If your parent is upset more easily, more depressed, or frequently scared or anxious this could indicate an issue with cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s. Personality changes such as these can indicate irregular brain activity and might need further investigation by an Alzheimer’s specialist.
5. Problems With Vision
Alzheimer’s symptoms aren’t only restricted to neurological changes. People with Alzheimer’s can also have a decrease in visual ability. If your parent or loved one has sudden difficulty with motion blindness, depth perception, color perception, and contrast sensitivity, serious memory loss may be to blame. It’s also important to note that this disease can make it harder to read words on a page or judge distance accurately. As with other symptoms of dementia, vision problems alone may not indicate any problem at all, however, coupled with other problems they could be indicative of larger brain changes.
If your parent is presenting with several or all of the symptoms above, it could be time to set up an appointment with a specialist who can evaluate the situation and provide a full diagnosis. The sooner that you take the steps to get your parent the care he or she needs, the better it will be for their health, safety, and well-being.