Reviewed by Jason Neufeld, Esq.
Are you aware that memory loss could be just a part of the aging process? Sadly, for whatever reason, a patient will rarely inform his or her physician if he or she is experiencing memory issues. Are you caring for your aging parent? Do you know when memory issues are serious enough to warrant intervention? Let us discuss with you warning signs that your aging parent may need memory care soon.
- Appearance is changing. Often with declining mental status a person’s appearance changes. Your parent may forget to bathe, stop putting an effort into his or her appearance, or wear the same outfit everyday. You may know your parent best and be able to evaluate a significant change in appearance.
- Losing weight. With a person experiencing severe dementia, weight loss can result from several causes. Your parent may just be forgetting to eat. There may be more serious reasons, though, like getting lost on the way to the market, misplacing credit cards or having them turned off, due to forgetting to make the payment. Usually, a combination of these factors may make the process of shopping for and eating food feel too overwhelming, and the individual may simply try to survive on what they have. If you notice a sudden unexplained weight loss, talk to your parent about meals and grocery shopping. From a safety perspective, you should determine whether there are any risks of cooking related injuries, including burns or leaving the stove on, which may warrant immediate intervention.
- Forgetting to take medications. If you notice that your parent has medicine piling up, or your parent begins experiencing medical symptoms from not taking the proper medications, such as suddenly increased blood pressure or elevated blood sugar, there is the possibility he or she is forgetting to take his or her medications.
- Getting lost. Both wandering and getting lost during routine walks are primary signs of dementia. If you suspect this is occurring with your parent, try to talk about it. Your parent, however, may be unwilling to discuss it out of fear or shame, or his or her memory loss may result in him or her being too confused to fully comprehend the situation. If you suspect your parent may be wandering or getting lost, try to visit your parent at a different time of day or ask his or her neighbors to call you, if they see anything out of the ordinary.
- Agitation. Memory loss can be emotionally stressful. Often your parent may seem off, is more easily angered, or begins lashing out, these are all signs that your parent may be experiencing memory loss. Accusing family members and friends of stealing has also been associated with memory decline, as an explanation for misplacing things. If your parent accuses you of stealing, rather than take it personally, it may be time to call his or her doctor.
- Depression. Depression can be a part of the aging process but can also be caused by medication or other reasons. If you start to notice signs such as withdrawing from going outside, interacting with others, and increased isolation it may be time to not only talk to your parent but seek medical help.
If you observe these symptoms in your parent, first make sure he or she is in a safe environment and check on him or her more frequently. After this, speak with his or her physician who will provide you guidance in getting him or her appropriate memory care. Our office is here to help you navigate the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of memory care. The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (AFELA) is the pre-eminent organization of Florida elder law attorneys providing advocacy, education and action on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities. We encourage you to contact one of our attorneys in your area using our Find a Lawyer website for assistance on what to do next if your aging parent has developed memory loss.