Finding out that someone you love has dementia can be devastating. Unfortunately, by the time that most people notice the symptoms, the disease may have already progressed significantly. However, there are early warning signs that can help you identify if a loved one is suffering so that you can seek treatment sooner as well as ensure that you are better prepared for when the disease gets worse. In addition, numerous resources exist that provide the most up to date information on clinical research, support groups, and treatment options. FirstLantic Healthcare has put together the following guide so that you know how to spots the signs of dementia and how to find support if necessary.
Early warning signs:
It’s important to recognize the difference between normal signs of aging versus indicators that may signify a large problem. For example, if someone forgets a name now and then, that’s probably not an issue, but if a friend or family member is constantly forgetting words, sometimes in mid-sentence, that could be proof of something more serious. Or if someone exhibits multiple symptoms, it might be time to seek medical advice. Examples of behaviors associated with dementia include:
- Lack of specificity in everyday conversations such as referring to people without using their name or describing events in very general or vague terms could be a sign of covering up forgetfulness.
- Memory loss that affects day-to-day function such as getting lost in a parking lot or forgetting where household items are stored when they have been in the same place for years.
- Short term memory loss about recent events or discussions.
- Difficulty in performing everyday tasks such as having a hard time following directions or taking longer than normal to do things like putting together a grocery list.
- Losing enthusiasm or interest for activities that were previously enjoyed such as gardening or reading.
- Changes in personal hygiene such as less frequent bathing or not brushing one’s hair or teeth.
- Difficulty in finding the right words and losing train of thought mid-sentence or not being able to complete the sentence at all.
- Changes in personality or frequent mood changes.
- Inability to participate in social interactions or withdrawing from social encounters.
If you start to notice any of the symptoms above and they seem to be increasing in frequency, the first step is to seek a medical professional’s advice. If possible, try to accompany the person and seek out a specialist trained in early detection of dementia as some signs may be overlooked by a general practitioner. Also, the person seeking treatment might be able to hide their symptoms or be unwilling or unable to divulge the full extent of their experiences so you should be there to fill in the gaps if necessary.
If you do find out there’s an issue, don’t feel that you’re alone. There are numerous resources where you can get more information. FirstLantic has put together a list below to help you find the necessary support.
- The Alzheimer’s Association offers a searchable database of support groups in your local area. Online support groups are also available at ALZConnected and Caregiver Nation.
- The Alzheimer’s Association has a 24/7 Helpline where you can speak with clinicians and specialists. There are also live chat options available from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and downloadable resources.
- Cleveland Clinic – Healthy Brains provides individualized brain health assessment tools, lifestyle tips, news on developments in research and medicine, caregiver resources, and the latest clinical trials.
- The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has caregiving resources including a free helpline, fact sheets, free community classes, webinars, and more. They also offer a National Memory Screening Program.
- The Caregiver Action Network’s Family Caregiver Toolbox, while not specifically focused on dementia caregivers, has plenty of helpful information such as resources on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and CAN’s Care Community with several forums including a group for Alzheimer’s caregivers.
- The Family Caregiver Alliance has dementia caregiver resources where you can find guides, tips sheets, caregiver stories as well as online support groups.
- The National Alliance for Caregiving offers a Brain Health Conversation Guide developed in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, which helps people navigate difficult discussions about memory changes and cognitive health.
- The S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers helpful information for caregivers on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And many healthcare companies offer special services specifically for Veterans.
- Dementia Friendly America
Dementia Friendly America is “a national network of communities, organizations, and individuals seeking to ensure that communities across the U.S. are equipped to support people living with dementia and their caregivers.” DFA offers a robust list of resources for people living with dementia, their loved ones, and dementia caregivers, as well as toolkits for those who want to advocate in their own communities.
- Memory Cafés
The Memory Café Directory lists hundreds of memory cafés located throughout the U.S. in hospitals, libraries, senior centers, and other locations. They offer support for those with dementia and their caregivers to help them combat social isolation and connect with others who are coping with similar circumstances.
In addition to support groups, there are podcasts that provide insight into the struggles and learnings of other caregivers.
In summary, while no one wants to find out that someone they love has dementia, it’s better to recognize the symptoms early and know how to get help if necessary.
If you or someone you know is living in South Florida and needs home care, FirstLantic is here to support you.