Friday, September 9, 2011

The danger of your aging parent covering up dementia (part 2)

Here is a great dementia resource for caregivers and healthcare professinals,

Here is information on being the best caregiver you can be

Here is a way for nurses administrators, social workers and other health care professionals to get an easyceu or two


Carolyn Rosenblatt

Mom just steps in and does what Dad is forgetting. He forgot, for instance, how to make coffee. He’s been making coffee for decades. He forgot the steps. He didn’t remember them later. He got lost driving home. Is that “normal” because he’s 86? It isn’t. Both of these memory issues are signs of trouble brewing.

Dad refused to try a new card game, something he’s always loved to do in the past. He is having more and more trouble learning any new information, say nothing of keeping track of the information he already knows.

Jaclyn wants to help, but is afraid to bring up the subject of what she sees. Mom will just deny a problem and say Dad is fine, just getting old.

Does it matter whether Dad goes to see a neurologist? Yes. At least that can help sort out the behavior that is not what the family is used to seeing and rule out various causes. Medication interactions, infections, stroke, and even dehydration can cause changes in brain function and behavior. It’s good to find out possible reasons for the memory problems and learn whether they can be treated.

A doctor generally won’t diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease unless there is enough evidence from testing and examining a patient to give the physician reasons to do so. There’s no one test to tell you if your aging parent has it or not. We get clues and doctors draw reasonable conclusions from them, but it’s not a precise thing.

Regardless, if your aging parent is showing the signs Jaclyn’s father is showing, you can take better control of how you handle the problem by acting on the signs rather than ignoring them. You can be sure that if Dad gets lost driving home, his driving days should come to an end. That is definitely worth talking to the doctor about, as Dad may need help facing the enormous consequences of losing the ability to drive.

If there is no official diagnosis other than “early dementia” or “mild cognitive impairment”, it’s not a signal to the family that everything is ok and no one needs to plan ahead. Rather, it’s time to take a look at Dad’s future. In advising Jaclyn, I gave her a list of a few things to check into now, rather than wait for a crisis.

Here’s Jaclyn’s 4-item beginning “to do” list:

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