Over time, you’ve noticed your loved one seems to be struggling a bit more with their daily routines. Tasks and activities they used to complete quickly and easily are now taking extra time and effort.
You may have even had to step in and help—whether assisting in the moment or working to establish systems to make things easier and more streamlined.
Lately, you’ve begun to get concerned these issues may be due to something more than just the normal aging process. You dread to think it—but what if your loved one is dealing with something more permanent and serious, like dementia, or even Alzheimer’s disease?
Just the thought of this can strike fear into the hearts of many. It’s scary to think about your loved one dealing with a progressive neurological issue, like dementia.
If you’re grappling with these concerns, it’s important to know you’re not alone. And, there are many different avenues of support and assistance available to help you navigate this situation.
It’s also important to know—even if your loved one is experiencing dementia or cognitive changes, this isn’t the end. Many people with dementia and other neurological and cognitive issues can go on to live long, healthy, happy lives. They may just need some extra support.
Thankfully, they have you. And you’re obviously working to learn more about the issues they may be facing, because you’re reading this article.
One thing proven by research that’s already well known to anyone who’s worked in the senior living industry is this—people with dementia who have a strong support system of loved ones tend to have much better outcomes than those who do not.
By simply being there for them, you’re already making a positive impact on your loved one’s life.
This article will help you learn some of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It will also help you understand the available options and lay the groundwork to approach discussions about senior living and care.
What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia?
While most people associate Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with memory loss, this is only one common symptom of many.
In fact, in some types of dementia memory issues are actually minimal and symptoms primarily impact a person’s personality, judgment, and insight. This is true of some types of frontotemporal dementia, and can make the underlying issue more difficult to diagnose.
It’s also important to remember that not all types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease. While Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, it’s not the only kind. Dementia is often misunderstood as a disease, itself, when it’s actually a collection of symptoms.
There are many different types of dementia, depending on the cause and which area of the brain is impacted. For example—vascular dementia can be described as akin to a series of regular mini strokes, as, like a stroke, it impacts the blood vessels of the brain.
Unlike Alzheimer’s, the most common symptoms of this type of dementia are slowed processing and reduced reasoning skills. It can even cause unsteadiness when walking and impact a person’s ability to urinate.
Now that you have an awareness that dementia emcompasses more than just memory loss, let’s lay out some of the other signs and symptoms of dementia. This way, you can be better prepared to recognize these issues in your loved one.
First, let’s look at the symptoms of other types of dementia. Then, we’ll focus on the signs and symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in particular.
Some common signs and symptoms of dementia include—
- Wandering behaviors
- Neglecting proper nutrition and hydration
- Reduced or lack of socialization
- Personality changes
- Word finding difficulties
- Poor self care and personal hygiene
- Forgetting to take medications (or general difficulty with medication management)
- Depression or apathy
- Unsteady gait
- Inability to analyze a situation
- Difficulty communicating thoughts and feelings
- Cognitive changes—which can include issues like:
- Trouble paying bills and managing finances
- Mood swings
- Difficulty planning for events
- Trouble remembering and following a schedule
- Difficulty with reasoning and processing information
- Increased agitation
- Reduced inhibition
While some of these are typical of the normal, healthy aging process, they can also be signs your loved one may be dealing with dementia. The key is to pay attention and trust your gut—if you notice one or more of these issues showing up in your loved one, it may be time to get them assessed by a professional to see if what you’re dealing with is more than just age-related issues.
Now, let’s review some of the typical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, which include—
- Confusion and frustration (which often get worse in the evenings)
- Disorientation and getting lost easily, even in known locations
- Difficulty completing ordinary activities
- Trouble focusing
- Dramatic mood swings which can include bouts of anger, anxiety, and depression
- Difficulties with word finding and communication in general
- Trouble with walking and poor coordination
In the case of Alzheimer’s, symptoms tend to develop slowly at first but progressively worsen over time.
So, what can you do if you notice some or many of these issues showing up in your loved one? Thankfully, there are many options available to you, and many people who can help you make the best choices for your family as you navigate this situation.
What can I do if my loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia?
If you believe your loved one may be dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, the first important step is to make an appointment for them to be seen by their primary care physician. This doctor is likely already familiar with your loved one, and, in some cases, general practitioners are skilled at performing the diagnostic process themselves.
If this is not the case, your loved one’s primary care doctor can, if warranted, make a referral to an appropriate specialist for further evaluation of your loved one’s memory and thinking skills.
Relevant specialists often involved in this process include—neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and physicians specializing in geriatric medicine.
Your loved one’s doctor will likely perform some relevant tests and obtain a complete medical history, as well as interviewing both you and your loved one to get a clear sense of the issues and concerns you have. Here is a helpful checklist of what you can expect at your doctor visit to assess your loved one for dementia.
If a thorough assessment determines your loved one is dealing with a progressive neurological issue like Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, what then?
While many seniors living with the initial stages of dementia vehemently wish to remain in their own homes, this isn’t always the safest, best, or even the most cost effective option.
For one thing, your loved one with dementia is at increased risk for falls and other adverse safety events if they continue to live at home without additional daily assistance.
While family members often seek to help out, or to hire additional home care support and assistance, these options are often not ideal.
Family members are not trained caregivers, and taking on caregiving duties for a loved one with dementia can be a massive undertaking. Hiring home support can help your loved one, but this is typically quite expensive and individuals with dementia often require more daily care than their families can coordinate or afford.
For many families in this situation, transitioning a loved one into senior living and care is the optimal solution. While some hold a negative view of this type of living situation, research shows seniors who transition into senior living actually report a higher quality of life than those who remain in their own homes.
This is likely because senior living offers additional support, care, assistance, and chances for seniors to socialize with their same-aged peers. Senior living also offers community members many opportunities to engage in activities, programs, and events they likely would not have otherwise been able to participate in.
Another unexpectedly positive aspect of senior living for most families is related to cost. While most people anticipate transitioning their loved one into senior living and care will represent a higher cost of living, this often isn’t the case.
In fact, when you really sit down and tally up the full range of expenses associated with your loved one remaining in their own home and compare them to the costs of senior living—they’re often about equal. Some families even find senior living to be the more affordable option for their loved one!
There are also several programs that exist to help families mitigate some of the costs associated with a move to senior living. Here at Palm Beach Memory Care, our team of advisors are highly skilled at helping you understand all your funding options, as well as assisting you in laying out your actual monthly costs to transition your loved one into our community.
Let’s dive into the options in senior living for individuals with dementia.
What senior living and care options are there for people with dementia?
For people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, there are three main tiers of senior living that are appropriate to support their daily needs, depending on the severity of their symptoms and the overall level of daily care they require. These are—
- Assisted living
- Memory care
- Skilled nursing
Assisted living might be the best choice for someone with very mild dementia symptoms, who can continue to perform most of their daily tasks safely and independently.
Skilled nursing is for individuals who require moderate to extensive assistance in their activities of daily living, or for people who are coming from a hospitalization to receive intensive therapy and continuous assistance.
Memory care represents a happy medium between these two options, and is often the ideal choice for families with a loved one with dementia who they’re looking to transition into senior living and care. These facilities are specifically designed to cater to the needs of people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other types of cognitive and neurological issues.
Some of the common features of memory care facilities include—
- 24 hour assistance
- Resident monitoring systems for safety
- Staff with additional training to assist individuals with dementia
- Activities and programs
- Housekeeping and laundry services available
- Medication management
- Private or semi private rooms
- Simplified layouts for easier navigation
At Palm Beach Memory Care, we go far above and beyond the typical expectations for memory care communities in both the extent and quality of our offerings for our residents and their families.
Here, your loved one will have access to our innovative, unobtrusive Vigil resident monitoring system. With this high-tech system, we maintain our residents’ dignity and quality of life with the use of silent alarms and sensors, designed to alert nursing staff when assistance is needed without the use of flashing lights and loud buzzers that are typically used and can easily upset and confuse people with dementia.
With our proprietary Pathways Program, our valued residents and their families gain access to a new framework of opportunities to reform meaningful connections. It’s designed to support the holistic health, wellness, and quality of life of our residents, while supporting their abilities to connect to their loved ones, no matter where they are in their dementia journey.
Our community, itself, was built to support the unique needs of the residents we serve, while upholding their independence and quality of life. Here, we believe dementia is another chapter of life’s exciting story. Together, we want to help you write one with your loved one that’s as special as they are.
Check out our website for more info about our exclusive programs, innovative systems, impressive amenities, and state of the art community. Reach out to one of our advisors with questions or for more information, or schedule your free in-person tour! We think you’ll see how we view dementia care differently.