I find myself writing “The November” blog again and I thought – besides my usual reminder that this is the month to have forward thinking for your own long term care planning – I would also give you a resource as you go home for the Holidays to visit your own aging Parents, Aunties, Uncles…
Data indicates that half of folks 85 and over have some form of dementia. It typically starts in the late 70s or early 80s, though, and is progressing with each passing year. There are standardized tests that doctors can give to seniors to judge the level of dementia – it never hurts to have one done so that you have a baseline in the medical records to compare with down the years. Dementia can be subtle because people with this condition can have good days and bad days. They can vary even within the day as to how well they are managing.
So our first recommendation is to suggest to your aging family members to have a test done now to document just how well they are doing (make it a positive…say it with an upbeat tone of voice and remind them we are going to make sure you the Doc knows how well you are doing and coping). Then a year or 5 years later you can have the same test repeated to see if there is any progression.
Failing that, there are some early signs that you can watch for on in your own interactions with them. The Huffington Post recently published an article titles “The 7 Surprising Signs of Alzheimer’s”. The full article is worth a read (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-surprising-early-signs-of-alzheimers-disease_56156644e4b0cf9984d809ef) but here are the highlights:
- Unusual stealing of items or other law-breaking activities that have not been present before.
- Frequent falling
- Forgetting the function of daily objects (like not recognizing the peeler in the kitchen or the shovel in the garage)
- Eating inappropriate things or eating more calories but still losing weight.
- Inability to recognize sarcasm or humor
- Unfocused staring
No one but a trained medical practitioner can actually diagnose Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. But if you have seniors in your life, it is worth it to be aware – and use your annual Holiday trip home to be aware and be ready to have a gentle way to have early intercession and get some testing done. Plan for their long term care now can make their life and yours so much easier.