Planning a holiday visit allows you to check in with your aging loved one, especially if you are a long distance caregiver, this is a great opportunity to personally observe them in their home environment. Recognizing changes in cognition can be tricky, is it normal decline due to aging to dementia?
Having symptoms doesn't necessarily mean that a person has dementia but it does mean that they need some additional support to remain independent. The most common signs include memory loss, confusion of place and/or time, changes in mood, changes in behaviour, difficulty with familiar tasks and poor judgment
Use the following pointers to help gauge how well an aging loved one is faring.
1. Physical Changes
Any weight loss or weight gain?
How is their balance?
Are they walking with discomfort or pain?
(Unkept nails can cause foot pain, increasing fall risk)
Sleeping too much or too little?
UTI (urinary track infections are common in older people and are easily rectified with antibiotics. A UTI can cause serious symptoms; odd behaviour, confusion, mimicking or exacerbating dementia related symptoms.
2. Emotional Wellbeing
Is your loved on staying active and getting the very valuable social interactions. To gauge this it is helpful to have a general idea of what their usual schedule, patterns and hobbies are. Take notice of whether your loved on is still engaged in their normal routines; church, shopping, basic housekeeping, reading, maintaining their personal hygiene etc.
In general most people don't like to take pills. Expired prescriptions and unused medications are a good indicator your loved one is having trouble maintaining their medication schedule. Digital reminders and large print notes posted in a obvious location can aid in maintaining a daily routine for remembering to take medications.
Post and maintain a current medication list on the fridge and also a smaller one for their wallet can be a extremely useful tool in an emergency.
4. Home Environment
A thorough looked around your loved ones house can tell you a lot about their physical and mental state. Unpaid bills indicate it is time to step in and hire a caregiver. Ensure you have all the financial records in order; Wills, Power of Attorney or Enduring power of attorney, and a personal directive are very important documents. An often overlooked consideration is having your medical agent not in charge of any finances. This can leave doors open for unnecessary conflict.
Other indicators include laundry piled up, sanitary conditions of the bathroom, expired food or no food in the fridge/freezer. Keep in mind seniors can put on a pretty good presentation when they are within their own environment to keep up appearances. Simply because there are no obvious warning signs, doesn't necessarily mean there is nothing amiss. Look for subtle indications that they are having trouble with day to day living.
Contact Alberta Health Care Community Access line for homecare to get an assessment for the government home care program or seek out private paid caregiver options such as The Mad Tasker. The more support systems you have in place the longer they can remain at home safely. The most frequent concern is family and seniors alike wait too long or until a crisis occurs before getting the help needed.
Being proactive allows your loved one to have choices about their independence, once crisis occurs they no longer have as many options and sometime lose their choices all together.