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If you are caring for an aging relative, you may notice some gaps in their memory beginning.  Loss of memory can be a part of the aging process.  As you care for a loved one, how do you know when memory issues are serious enough to warrant intervention?  What happens when your parent will not tell his or her physician that he or she is experiencing memory issues?  The following are some warning signs your aging parent or loved one may need memory care soon.

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  • Appearance Changes.  With declining mental status there may be changes in appearance.  For example, your dad may forget to bathe or stop putting an effort into his appearance, or even continuously wear the same outfit.  This may be happening because he is forgetting to tend to hygiene or has confusion regarding the steps involved in hygiene.  You know your parent best and are in a good position to see if there is a significant change in appearance.
  • Weight Loss.  Severe dementia may cause your parent to lose weight but there may be several other causes.  Forgetting to eat may be the simplest cause, but if your mom does her own shopping she may be getting lost on the way to the store, misplacing credit cards or having them turned off because she forgot to make the payment.  Often, a combination of these factors may make the process of shopping for and eating food feel too overwhelming, and your mom may simply try to survive on what she has.  If you do notice a sudden unexplained weight loss, you will need to engage your mom in conversation about meals and grocery shopping.  From a safety perspective, you should also determine whether she is at any risk of cooking related injuries, including burns or leaving the stove on, which may warrant immediate intervention.
  • Medication Not Taken.  Are you noticing extra medicine around, or is your dad experiencing medical symptoms from not taking the proper medications, such as suddenly increased blood pressure or elevated blood sugar?  These are sure signs that your dad is forgetting to take his medication.
  • Starting to Get Lost.  If your mom is wandering or getting lost on routine routes this is a primary sign of dementia.  When you try to talk to her, however, she may be unwilling to discuss it out of fear or shame, or her memory loss may cause her to be too confused to fully comprehend the situation.  Try to visit your mom at different times of day to see if she is wandering or getting lost or ask her neighbors to call you, if they see anything out of the ordinary.
  • Often Agitated.  Memory loss can be emotionally stressful.  If your dad seems to be a little off, or gets easily angered, or begins lashing out, he may be experiencing memory loss.  Often, memory decline will cause your dad to accuse family members and friends of stealing, as an explanation for misplacing things.  If your father accuses you of stealing, rather than take it personally, it may be a time to call his doctor.
  • Depression.  The aging process, medications, or a number of other reasons may cause depression.  If you start to notice signs such as withdrawing from going outside, interacting with others, and increased isolation it may be time to not only talk to your parent but seek medical help.

If you observe any of these symptoms in your parent or loved one, first make sure that they are living in a safe environment and check on them more frequently.  After this, speaking with their physician will provide guidance in getting more appropriate memory care.

If you are working with an elder law firm, they can help you navigate through the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of memory care.  We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys and support staff.