The holidays are a great opportunity to spend extended time with family, particularly older family members who may live too far away to visit regularly. In fact, given the ongoing pandemic, this may be the first time in over a year for families to gather. And that makes it a great time to evaluate how older loved ones are doing on their own.
Of course, there are many reasons a person may appear “off.” For example, the unusual noise of having a large group at home may make it difficult to hear and follow conversations. Stress or even lack of sleep can also affect a person’s ability to recall words. Be sure to follow up on your concerns with an open mind to the idea that there could be many different, sometimes temporary causes.
While you’re spending time together, observe your loved one’s behavior in routine tasks. If you see any new behaviors that may indicate memory loss, your first thought might be that a loved one may have dementia. These early signs from the Alzheimer’s Association may help you differentiate it from normal or stress-related memory loss.
Signs of poor judgment. This might include overspending or disregarding a safety issue others are concerned about.
Reduced interest in leisure activities. You should especially pay attention if there’s no physical health issue interfering with doing the activity.
Difficulty learning new skills. This might include having trouble with a new kitchen appliance or gadget.
Forgetting the year or month.
Difficulty managing money and finances. Common examples include having trouble paying bills on time or struggling to balance the checkbook.
Problems with appointments and commitments. If you’ve noticed that your parent or loved one is having more trouble keeping track of appointments and plans, make note of this.
Daily struggles with memory or thinking. It’s normal for older adults to take a little longer to remember things since many brain functions do slow a bit with aging. But it seems that your loved one often can’t remember things that happened, or otherwise seems to be more confused with thinking, make note of this.
If you see any of these behaviors, you will likely want to schedule time with your loved one’s family physician for a full evaluation. And in the meantime, consider some ways you might be able to help your loved one with notes, prompts, and other organizational ideas:
Establish and maintain a routine. Use a daily diary to write down the everyday tasks, household duties, and activities.
Get a bulletin board. Pin reminders, timetables, ideas, schedules, and lists to bulletin boards. Bulletin boards are great visual reminders. Helpers or caregivers can also put reminders of activities that you have scheduled, the date and day, and an inspiring verse or phrase.
Use labels to remind and identify possessions or accomplish specific tasks such as locking your door and windows at night.
Make Use of Technology. Set up electronic prompts such as texts or reminders in a smartphone calendar as reminders of things that need to be done, such as taking medications or attending an important social gathering or meeting.
Organize important items together. Establish one place to keep keys, money, phone, glasses, and other important items in the same place. This can help you keep track of these items more easily.
Use a clock with a date display.
If your loved one reaches a point where living independently becomes problematic or impossible, it’s important to be prepared for the next phase of life. Check out assisted living facilities like Crimson Village that offer memory care options onsite to allow for a smooth transition from their current situation to their possible future living arrangements. You can learn more about available amenities, floor plans, and medical support clicking here. Please call our transition specialist Tim Eads at (205) 344-2855, he would love to answer any questions you may have and get you started on your new home at Crimson Village.