Memory often changes as we age. A lot of it has to do with our lifestyle, how we eat, how active we are, etc. As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Some people may notice changes in themselves before anyone else does in terms of memory. For others, friends, and family may be the first to notice changes in daily abilities, memory, or even behavior.
Memory loss is typically a key sign of Dementia. The warning signs for dementia are subtle and may not be immediately obvious. Oftentimes, it’s usually difficult to remember recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, memory impairments worsen, and other symptoms may begin to develop.
Also, individuals may be able to hide warning signs for dementia if they understand enough. Early symptoms also depend on the type of dementia and vary a great deal depending on the individual.
Early signs of dementia
Although the early symptoms vary, common warning signs for dementia include:
- memory issues, forgetfulness (particularly with recent events)
- increasing confusion
- reduced concentration
- personality or behavior changes
- withdrawal or depression
- loss of ability to do everyday tasks or stay on tasks
While it is common to forget things as we age, many individuals mistakenly assume some of these signs as a normal part of aging. Those who are experiencing this may also learn to hide it as they feel embarrassed to talk about it, so it’s important to take action when you start to notice something may not be right.
Warning signs for dementia & symptoms of dementia
There are also more common signs once the disease has progressed beyond the early stages. The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center (ADRC) share more common signs to look out for:
- Memory loss or confusion
- Changes in behavior (wandering, agitation, hiding things, etc.)
- Inability to follow instructions or perform routine tasks
- Loss of personality
- Loss of sense of time
- Speech and communication difficulties
- Inability to recognize common people or objects
- Inability to perform purposeful motor movements
These warning signs will vary as there are different types of Dementia. Some will have distinct symptoms that often mimic other types, but your loved one’s doctor would be the best at diagnosing a specific Dementia (if there is one.) Sometimes, there is not a specific Dementia diagnosis and your loved one may receive a ‘Generalized Dementia’ diagnosis. Take a peek at the most common types below but keep in mind, there are over 100 types of Dementia.
Types of dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by “plaques” between the dying cells in the brain and “tangles” within the cells (both are due to protein abnormalities). The brain tissue in a person with Alzheimer’s has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections, and the total brain size shrinks.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies is a neurodegenerative condition linked to abnormal structures in the brain.
- Mixed dementia refers to a diagnosis of two or three types occurring together. For instance, a person may show both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time.
- Parkinson’s disease is also marked by the presence of Lewy bodies. Although Parkinson’s is often considered a disorder of movement, it can also lead to dementia symptoms.
- Huntington’s disease is characterized by specific types of uncontrolled movements but also includes dementia.
What to do if your loved one has dementia
Getting a proper diagnosis is important to know what to expect during your journey.
- Schedule a memory screening
ClinCloud is a local research firm that offers FREE memory testing and can diagnose your loved one as they have doctors on-site. If you choose to use your own doctor, they will perform their own memory testing. ClinCloud will take it a step further and provide a more thorough test. Typically, a doctor sees hundreds of patients and does not always have the time to conduct a lengthy memory test, so being able to schedule a second test can really make a difference. ClinCloud also participates in Dementia studies if you qualify but you do not have to participate in one to schedule a memory screening
- Learn about resources that provide support groups
The ADRC is a great place to learn about Dementia and participate in their support groups. At North Star, we are very involved in the community and can definitely connect you with community resources like the ADRC and others that provide services for those that are going through a similar journey.
Occupational Therapy historically has been driven by the importance of treating not only the body but the mind with an emphasis on the balance of rest and activity to promote improved general homeostasis. While your loved one may benefit from physical therapy, occupational is something to consider to improve your loved one’s overall health.
Additional things to consider
- Consider counseling services
Finding out that you or your loved one has Dementia is emotional and overwhelming. Know you are not alone, and you do not have to go on this journey without help. The great thing about licensed counseling services is that they take traditional Medicare insurance. We could all benefit from therapy but having it covered by insurance is even better.
- Consider Senior Living (Memory Care)
Most of us want to keep our loved ones at home as long as possible, but that is easier said than done. Providing great quality of life with engaging activities may not always be possible at home, especially if the person suffering from dementia is alone. Caregivers may also struggle to properly care for their loved ones too. They may also be experiencing caregiver burnout which could ultimately prevent them from providing good care while their own health declines.
Memory Care can be a great option for a short-term stay to give caregivers or break. You can also use this as a long-term solution, knowing your loved one will be well cared for in an environment where they are engaged with others in a similar journey.
What is Memory Care?
Memory Care is a specialized assisted living facility that has trained caregiving staff to care for those with memory impairments. There are also engaging programs created specifically for those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Typically, those living with Alzheimer’s or another type of Dementia need help with activities of daily living, constant supervision, and a secured environment with residents that share a similar diagnosis.
Specifically designed units, or what some communities call neighborhoods, are easy for residents to navigate. For the residents’ convenience, Memory Care communities typically have 24-hour staff for residents who are up at night. The specialized activities help with cognitive abilities and oftentimes help delay dementia’s progression.
In Central Florida, there are many communities that range from small to large environments. In the state of Florida, there are different license types that are regulated to care for your loved one based on their level of care. If your loved one has anxiety or agitation, then maybe a large environment is too much for them and you can consider smaller licensed memory care homes with a limited number of residents. We know of several communities in the area and can walk you through the benefits of a small environment versus a large facility and vice versa.
Things to consider when searching for a memory care community
Before you begin your search on your own, there are several things you should familiarize yourself with:
- Budget: The average cost of Memory Care begins at $4500 per month.
- Level of Care: Know the help your loved one may need because that will determine which license type to consider.
- Activities of Daily Living: Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, Medication Management, etc.
- Cognitive Activities: Scheduled activities to include music, art, pet therapy, social interaction with other residents, and more
- Secured Environment: Is the community secured and is there a camera in the main area?
Memory Care communities are often decorated to look more like a home rather than an institution which is what most think of when they hear the word community or facility. Staff often wear regular clothes instead of nursing scrubs and some of the newer communities decorate their interior to look like a small town so residents feel as if they are enjoying the outdoors. There are so many neat gadgets and amenities for seniors to participate in no matter what stage of the disease they are in.
Senior Advisors for Memory Care Placement
Finding the perfect Memory Care Facility and navigating through your loved one’s Dementia journey can be hard but it doesn’t have to be, even during this pandemic. North Star Senior Advisors will work as your advocate, educate and guide you to Dementia resources, narrow down search options, save you time by eliminating inappropriate communities, and also find a memory care community within your budget. We are not biased! We give you options. You choose the community that you feel your loved one will feel most at home.
Give us a call to speak with an experienced Senior Living Advisor today at 407-796-1582 or visit our website to contact us and have an advisor reach out to you. Our services are completely free for you.