This is a question that I get all too often in the office. As our parents get older, we may begin to notice a number of changes in their cognitive processes. Now I am sure you are asking, what are cognitive processes? Let me just list a few important ones for you?
1. Ability to retain and recall new information.
2. Ability to add, subtract, or divide the basic math functions.
3. Ability to recognize people, places or things.
4. Ability to manage mood changes.
5. Ability to utilize judgment.
This disease can be scary for a number of reasons; 1) It validates that our parent(s) ability to take care of themselves is changing and they may be moving to a more dependent role in our lives. 2) It may mean that your schedule is no longer your own and each waking-hour will include a level of care or engagement with your once independent parent(s). 3) It may mean different living arrangements and a total change in the way you handle your day-to-day business. 4) Finally, it may mean early retirement for you, the cancelling of a vacation with your immediate family or even calling off a planned wedding. No matter how you look at this process, it can be scary.
However, I just want to share with you, Don’t Panic. If you recognize this disease early, you may be able to diffuse the emotional impact of this disease on the family, as well as, the actual physiological progression. In this post, I will not go into the medications-but I promise you next week I will do this for you. What I would like to do for my readers is offer them a few simple questions that may be helpful in determining the need for further assessment of a parent with progressive memory loss.
Here are a couple of questions to consider asking yourself and other close family members to your parent;
- Does mom/dad seem a little more socially withdrawn than usual? (stop attending church, bridge or club meetings)
- Does mom/dad seem a little more confused than normal lately to you?
- Is mom/dad misplacing things a lot? (i.e. keys, wallet, bills)
- Is mom/dad falling a lot, misjudging space or seemingly a little more intrusive lately.
- When questions, does mom/dad make up responses to cover for their memory loss? (Confabulation)
If you answered yes to most of the above questions, you should strongly consider and initial evaluation for Alzheimer’s by your primary care physician.
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