Health & Fit You Asked: How Can I Spot Early Signs of Dementia In an Aging Parent?

01:35  12 october  2017
01:35  12 october  2017 Source:   Time

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Don’t write off memory issues as normal aging . In some cases, cognitive loss may be an early sign of Alzheimers disease or dementia . In fact, talking about dementia with a parent is often more difficult than spotting the warning signs .

How to spot the signs of dementia . Forgetting important dates or events. Often families think there is no point doing anything about a parent with dementia in the early days, but this just isn’t true.

  You Asked: How Can I Spot Early Signs of Dementia In an Aging Parent? © Illustration by Sydney Rae Hass for TIME

Your father keeps misplacing his keys, or your mother repeats herself. Should you be worried about dementia? If those seemingly minor issues are new ones, you’re right to be concerned.

“People tend to attribute too much to normal aging and are a little dismissive of cognitive loss,” says Dr. Paul Fishman, a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a neurologist at UMD’s Medical Center. “Dementia is very common, and in general it is under-diagnosed, rather than over-diagnosed.”

Roughly 9% of Americans have dementia, which is a blanket term for a loss of intellectual function that is severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life. That interference often takes the form of memory loss or confusion, but it could also manifest as poor hand-eye coordination, problems with tasks like cooking or operating a computer, or mood and behavioral changes ranging from depression to hostility.

The Physical Exercise That Can Reverse Signs Of Aging In The Brain

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Learn more about how to protect your aging parent 's assets when confronted with early signs of Alzheimer's. Early Stage Dementia : How to Protect Your Aging Parents ’ Assets. Posted On 26 Mar 2015.

How To Know If Your Parent Has Dementia . Signs of dementia or other serious memory problems may include: Asking the same questions over and over again. Although it is common in very elderly individuals, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process.

“Driving issues, especially struggling to find their way around areas they know, or not judging distance between cars, or making turns inappropriately, are all symptoms,” Fishman says. “Responding to telemarketers when that’s out of character for them or struggling with finances are also worrying things.”

But the number-one red flag a child or caregiver needs to watch out for is change. If someone is acting differently than they used to, that’s good reason for them to see a doctor for an evaluation, Fishman says. That evaluation will include some form of cognitive assessment—either quick or in-depth, depending on the person’s symptoms—and may also entail blood work or other tests to rule out non-Alzheimer’s factors.

In the majority of dementia cases—at least 60%—the loss of cognitive function will be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, says Gary Small, a professor and director of geriatric psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles’s Brain Research Institute. “Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative process in which abnormal plaques or deposits accumulate in brain regions controlling thinking and memory and other functions,” he says. “As that process progresses, it causes dementia.”

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Is It Dementia ? Have you noticed your parent or spouse forgetting things? Perhaps they've gotten lost on the way home from the store, or maybe they've asked the same question several times. Normal Aging . Sign of Early Dementia .

7 signs your aging parent needs financial help. If your parent is filing paperwork in a new or random spot , it that could be a sign they have either forgotten what to do with the paperwork or, for those with early dementia , are compensating for their forgetfulness by trying a new method of organization.

While some drug treatments and lifestyle adjustments may slow the development of Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure for the condition, Small says.

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Still, prompt diagnosis is critical. It’s easier to protect a still-healthy brain than it is to repair a damaged one. “If you can get an accurate Alzheimer’s diagnosis early, we may be able to put off severe effects for years,” he adds.

Even if your parent is relatively young—in her 50s or 60s—don’t ignore memory slips or new symptoms. While rates of dementia really balloon once a person reaches age 80, about 10% of dementia cases are diagnosed by age 65—and for some, the loss of function sets in earlier, Small says.

At the same time, there are also other triggers of cognitive decline that are treatable and in some cases reversible. These include everything from an undiagnosed stroke to a thyroid condition or medication side-effects. This fact—that many cases of dementia are caused by fixable, non-Alzheimer’s sources of impairment—may be a good way to coax a parent into visiting a doctor for an assessment, which can be a tricky conversation for kids and caregivers, Fishman says.

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Aging parents who have " early dementia " are refusing help and verbally abusing their adult kids who are trying to help. If there is a Durable Power of Attorney the parent signed some time ago, your parent becomes enraged and cancels it.

Aging and Health. Early Symptoms of Dementia in Seniors. Common Task Loss: One of the easiest to spot first signs of dementia happens when individuals fail to recall how to perform basic tasks.

In fact, talking about dementia with a parent is often more difficult than spotting the warning signs. Fishman says another aspect of dementia is impaired insight, so a loved one who’s struggling may not recognize his symptoms or acknowledge that there’s an issue. “When family approach them, they may be either dismissive or angry,” he says. “There can also be some degree of paranoia,” which makes these sorts of conversations rough.

If talking about the issue with your parent isn’t working—or you’re worried they’ll react poorly—Fishman recommends calling your mom or dad’s doctor to let them know about your concerns. “The doctor won’t be able to share results with you,” he says. But at your mom or dad’s next check-up, the doctor can perform an assessment and take appropriate steps.

The most important message: Don’t dismiss memory problems or other symptoms as run-of-the-mill aging. Even for a loved one in her 70s or 80s, “a loss of cognitive ability that interferes with function is not normal,” Small says. If your parent needs help, you can ensure they find it.

This article was originally published on TIME.com

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