Are you an adult child or family member noticing changes in a parent and wondering if it could be Alzheimer’s or dementia? How do you know what is a normal part of aging vs. a bigger problem, and how do you bring it up without upsetting them?
Keep A Behavior Log
Memory loss is a common symptom people first notice, but there are other early warning signs that could indicate a problem. Withdrawing from social activities, becoming financially irresponsible, changes in mood, or frequently misplacing items and becoming easily agitated for example.
Keep a log of anything strange or new behaviors you notice. Make sure to note the time of day and what was happening around them. This can help identify patterns or environment triggers that might be contributing to the behavior. Having a log of monitored behaviors can also help their doctor identify any health issues and next steps for treatment.
Signs Point To Dementia
If you’ve noticed enough early warning signs and think it is time to talk to your parent about the situation what can you expect?
Approaching a parent about your concerns can be difficult. They may not want to hear what you have to say, deny there is a problem, or become angry. Even so, it is important to address them.
While every situation is different there are some tips to help you prepare to talk your parent about Alzheimer’s:
- If you’ve been keeping a log of behaviors consider not sharing it with your parent right away. They may feel like you’ve been spying on them. Try starting the conversation by saying you’ve noticed some incidents lately and want to make sure they are OK.
- If your parent becomes angry it may be due to fear or loss of control. In many cases your parent may have noticed changes in their behavior or memory and might already be afraid.
- Anger and agitation are often signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia. If your parent lashes out or becomes agitated in a way that doesn’t fit their personality try not to fight back or become upset. Keep calm and assure them you are there for them.
- If your parent insists nothing is wrong try agreeing with them. Say you are sure they are right but you would feel better if they would see their doctor to rule out something simple that might be affecting their health or memory. In fact, there are some health issues including thyroid problems, stress or vitamin deficiencies that can mimic signs of dementia and can be reversed if treated correctly.
- Remember the earlier Alzheimer’s or dementia is diagnosed and the better care you provide for your parent.
The Doctor’s Appointment
Once you have made an appointment for your parent or loved one to visit the doctor don’t be hurt or surprised if they do not want you to go with them, or are fine with you driving them but not staying in the waiting room.
Try not to insist that you attend with them. Try offering to have a close friend or other family member go in your place if that makes them more comfortable.
Remember, even if you aren’t accompanying your parent to the appointment you can still speak to they their provider about your concerns. While regulations may permit the provider from sharing information with you – you can share information with them. Ask to speak to your parent’s healthcare provider on the phone prior to the appointment to express your concerns, and make sure they have a copy of the behavior log.
The Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
If your parent’s doctor suspects Alzheimer’s or dementia it can be scary and difficult to accept. Emotions including anger, guilt and grief are not uncommon. Read our tips for how to deal with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.