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That’s a great question. You’ve probably had the opportunity to see your parent or other loved one over a period of years. The aging process includes a natural slowing down, and you may see that certain day-to-day functions – such as bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, and remembering to take medications – have become a challenge, and you’ll find yourself questioning how viable it is for that person to live on his or her own, and you have a natural concern for their safety and well-being. Many people will begin the process of seeking an appropriate retirement community – touring the community and talking with staff on behalf of their aging loved one, and having made the initial inquiries, will draw their parent into the conversation.
My father’s memory isn’t near what it used to be. How will I know if it’s dementia, as opposed to just getting on in years?
Keep in mind that some degree of memory loss is normal with aging. It goes with the territory. To be considered dementia, symptoms need to affect more than one area of brain function significantly enough to interfere with everyday life. Memory loss is a common example, as you’ve noticed – your loved one may have difficulties forming new memories. Communication is another key area. Your father may experience challenges in processing speech and language- finding the right words. Changes in mood are common: depression, apathy, or a change in personality. He may be confused, or be challenged in his sense of direction and spatial orientation. He may experience a decline in judgment – his ability to consider facts and come to a reasonable conclusion. You may be in a good position to observe and monitor subtle changes such as these in your loved one. It’s also a good idea to talk with your father’s doctor and share your concerns.
Progressive dementia is the most common type, with five progressive stages:
- With stage one, there is no impairment. There is no significant memory problem, judgment is normal, and your loved one is fully able to care for their personal needs.
- Stage two is characterized by slight impairments, such as memory inconsistencies and struggles with timing or solving problems. They can still manage personal care without any help.
- Stage three is a noticeable but mild impairment in areas such as short-term memory, disorientation and getting around. Chores may begin to be neglected. Reminders are needed for such things as personal hygiene.
- A person with stage four has a moderate impairment. Though well enough to go out, they need to be accompanied for social activities and chores.
These questions are interesting, but don’t cover my specific question or concern. Any general advice?
Yes. Please feel free to think of us at Gable Pines as a resource. Give us a call. We will likely have excellent guidance, or have a pretty good idea on where to direct you to get your questions answered. In the meantime, this Family Resource section includes a number of the leading online organizations and resources. We hope that helps!
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