As we age, we experience gradual changes to our mind and body. These changes may bring along physical and mental challenges that can increase our risk of developing diseases. According to the World Health Organization, each person should have the ability to live a long and healthy life— this is considered healthy aging. Although the process of aging is unique for each individual, it’s important to recognize when certain signs of aging cross over from normal and healthy, to harmful. This is particularly important when it comes to our cognitive functioning. Has your parent ever called you by the wrong name, or forgotten to pay their bills on time? By learning the difference between normal aging and memory loss, you can decide when it’s time to consider care interventions such as assisted living communities that can cater to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related health concerns.
Levels of Memory Loss
Many older adults may experience the occasional lapse in their short-term memory, which can be a part of the normal aging process, and not something that needs serious attention. If the senior you care for has exhibited any of the following examples of memory lapses, they are generally not considered to be warning signs of severe memory loss or dementia:
- Occasionally forgetting where they left every day things such as glasses or keys.
- Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson a different family member’s name.
- Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting they entered.
- Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what they just read, or the details of a conversation.
The memory lapses that pose a bigger threat to a senior’s living situation are the ones that disrupt their day-to-day activities, hobbies, social activities, and relationships. Severe memory loss in seniors can show in a variety of ways, and a lot of the instances may closely mirror the signs of normal area-related memory loss. The difference, however, lies in the frequency, severity, and how it’s impacting their lives. These are some signs that a senior may be experiencing dementia:
- They’re unable to recognize or know the names of family members.
- They frequently forget things or events, like paying bills or cleaning up after themselves.
- Frequent pauses and distractions when having conversations.
- Asking the same questions over and over again.
- Becoming confused in places that they once were very familiar with.
- Eating poorly, forgetting to bathe, or showing unsafe behaviors.
Keeping Your Loved One Safe
While the signs of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease can be troubling to witness, your best course of action as their caregiver or loved one is to make a doctor’s appointment. He or she can then better assess the severity of the senior’s memory loss, and perform proper testing that could evaluate the cause. It’s important to note that even if a senior is not showing all the indicating factors of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it never hurts to be proactive when you start to notice behaviors that are not normal, which could ultimately protect your loved one in the long run.
Memory loss or frequent forgetfulness can not only harm their physical health, but mental health as well. As we experience cognitive decline, socialization becomes more challenging. People who aren’t as socially engaged with family or friends are at higher risk for increased memory problems than people who have strong social ties, so it’s important to step in and make adjustments to the older adult’s social habits early on in the development of their memory loss. Quality face-to-face social activities can greatly reduce stress, which can then help prevent the worsening condition they may already be battling. For those who live alone, this could mean they will need a change in their living environment.
Assisted living communities offer a way for seniors to age in place with other aging adults, while receiving personalized care in a residential setting. Assisted living communities that focus on memory loss, like Berman Commons, allows for residents to remain social, while emphasizing purposeful engagement by using specialized communication techniques, and activities that encourage personal choice and support learning. The best thing you could do is make sure that the senior in your life receives the proper level of care for their cognitive struggles, with highly-trained staff that understands what’s required in helping those with memory loss. To learn more about Berman Commons, and other services for seniors in your area, visit Jewish HomeLife or call 404-251-8410.