You may have noticed your loved one struggling to remember names or misplacing items and wondered if it’s part of the normal aging process or a sign of dementia. In the earliest stages of dementia, most people still are able to perform basic activities of daily living, but problems with forgetfulness or concentration gradually become more noticeable.
Early warning signs of Dementia may include:
- Misplacing items without being able to retrace your steps to find them
- Difficulty with planning or performing routine tasks
- Slight trouble managing finances, such as balancing a checkbook
- Confusion while driving
- Trouble managing medications
- Inability to find the word to communicate or holding a detailed conversation
- Trouble following detailed steps of something, such as a recipe
When these symptoms become severe enough to interfere with everyday activities, it’s wise to discuss your concerns with their doctor.
Practical tips for living with dementia
Symptoms progress differently for each individual, and there are things your loved one can do right away—such as eating well, exercising, and eliminating bad habits such as smoking— to keep their brain and body as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Consult a physician about medications that may be able to help slow the progression of the disease. There are some other things you and your loved one can do to help make living with dementia a little easier:
- Learn as much as you can about the disease, its symptoms, and how to help your loved one manage their health.
- Encourage them to keep a journal or memory box of things they want to remember.
- Find other, possibly new ways to express themselves, such as music, photography, or visual art.
- Help your loved one use wall calendars and planners to keep their days organized.
- Recommend that they put their keys and cell phone in an obvious, consistent place.
- Leave “sticky notes” in strategic places around the home as reminders.
- Label storage, drawers, and cabinets.
- Permanently post important phone numbers by the phone.
- Program names and telephone numbers into the phone.
- Help set up household bills to be paid automatically by their bank’s bill payment service or by direct debit.
- Remove trip hazards and install safety devices such as nightlights, fire extinguishers, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Set up an alarm and a pill organizer to remind them to take their medication.
Social activity tips
It can be easy to become socially isolated and depressed with a new diagnosis of dementia. If your loved one is in the earlier stages and is capable of participating in everyday activities, encourage them to:
- Plan special outings and regular opportunities to spend time with family and friends
- Take that trip they’ve always wanted
- Keep themselves occupied with hobbies or projects they enjoy
- Develop a regular routine of exercise and other activities that gets them out of the house and around other people
- Get out in nature more often
- Volunteer in their community
- Join a local support group for people with dementia and/or their families
- Seek individual and/or family counseling
- Talk to a member of their spiritual community
- Participate in activities for people with memory loss
- Join online communities of people with dementia or people with similar interests.
Whether or not your loved one’s dementia advances quickly or slowly, it is a progressive disease, so making the right decisions today can have a great effect on their future. You may want to consult a financial advisor, elder care attorney, aging life care specialist, or other professional to help you and your loved one make decisions about their finances, will, power of attorney, health care, and aging-in-place choices. It’s better to explore these options together before their symptoms become too advanced.
You are not alone
A dementia diagnosis can be scary, but it’s important to remember that you and your family are not alone. Home care services that help with activities of daily living—including personal care and assistance with laundry, meals, and other home needs—are a very popular solution to support people with dementia and their families on an ongoing basis. Specially trained, compassionate, professional caregivers can provide the companionship, peace of mind, and help your loved needs to live well and stay safe and independent in the comfort of home for as long as possible.