This holiday season you may notice an aging loved one having problems and wonder if they are showing signs of memory loss or dementia. (Dementia is the general term used when referring to a decline in mental processes severe enough to interfere with daily functioning and Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 – 80 % of dementia cases.) Many dementia symptoms start slow but gradually get worse, so don’t dismiss your loved one’s actions, ask questions, and consult a physician if you believe your loved one is exhibiting symptoms of dementia.
Having trouble finding the right word or forgetting where we placed something happens to everyone, but serious memory loss and forgetfulness that reduces a person’s ability to perform everyday activities is cause for concern. The difference between common forgetfulness and dementia is that people with dementia leave their items in unusual places. They may even accuse others of stealing. Finding items in strange spots should alert you that your loved one may be suffering from dementia. They may also have a distorted perception of time and think they haven’t seen you in years, when you just visited last weekend.
A major red flag for many families that an aging loved one is having memory problems is money discrepancies. An occasional money mistake can happen to anyone but if your loved one is giving money to people they have not given money to before or withholding money from people they should pay, you need to get involved.
Look for changes in your loved one’s vision beyond age-related problems. Difficulty judging distances or thinking someone else is in the room when they see their reflection, may be due to changes in visual and spatial abilities. If they drive their own car, the appearance of scrapes and dents can be the result of increasing difficulties comprehending spatial relationships.
If your loved one has lost interest in activities they previously loved it may be because they forget how to perform this hobby, which could embarrass them and cause them to further withdraw and become depressed. Another sign of depression is if your loved one sleeps all the time or watches TV all day with no desire to do anything else.
You may notice changes in the way your loved one dresses and a decline in their hygiene. Their fine motor skills, such as buttoning a button, may be affected by dementia but sometimes patients may not even remember how to dress. They may forget to brush their teeth, bathe, comb their hair, clip their fingernails, or shave.
If your loved one is experiencing memory difficulties, don’t ignore them. Consult a physician to determine the cause. While these are all signs of possible memory problems, they don’t necessarily mean that your loved one has dementia. There are many other causes of memory loss, including vitamin B12 deficiency, and brain, thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders. Your best option is to visit a doctor to determine the cause of these actions. Don’t wait to seek help! Early diagnosis is always best and your loved one is relying on you.

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