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What to Do if You Suspect Your Parent Has Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

It can be upsetting when you suspect that mom or dad might be showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. When you notice that something just isn’t right, it’s crucial to take positive action and seek out authoritative information right away to ensure that the affected parent gets the appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

If you’re not sure what to do if you suspect your parent has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, we’ve compiled a list of 7 things that will help prepare you for how to move forward in getting your parent get an accurate diagnosis, an ongoing treatment plan for the future, and a chance to help your parent live as fulfilled a life as possible.

1.    Know the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Like many life-altering diseases, it’s important to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and dementia early. Your family will not only be able to arrange for treatment sooner, but you might also be able to access interventions that might slow down the progress of the disease.

           Here are some early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia:

·      Short-term memory loss that affects day-to-day function

·      Significant change in behaviour or personality

·      Difficulty paying attention or losing focus/being vague during a conversation

·      Trouble finding words and/or completing sentences

·      Reduced ability to perform everyday routine tasks

·      Loss of energy and enthusiasm in activities they enjoy

2.    Keep a written record of the symptoms

Every time you notice that mom or dad are displaying dementia-like symptoms, write your observations down with the date and time they occurred. This isn’t to present to your parent as evidence of your concerns; it’s more of a log that their doctor might find useful down the road when diagnosing your parent’s condition.

3.    Discuss with other family members 

If you have brothers, sisters, or other family members with whom your parents have regular contact, openly bring up your concerns with them. Perhaps they’ve noticed the same things or have additional insights or observations to consider. Take the lead and don’t be afraid to voice your viewpoints.

If a family member dismisses your concerns, or makes you feel bad for having them, try not to let them cloud your judgment. Follow your instincts and make decisions that feel good for the betterment of your parent’s well-being.

4.    Resist the temptation to diagnose the symptoms yourself

If your loved one is showing some of the above symptoms, it might be tempting to jump to conclusions. The truth is that many conditions share the same symptoms as dementia, such as depression, stress, hormone disorders, addiction disorders, and brain tumours. 

Remember, only a medical professional can access the appropriate tests that will get to the bottom of what’s wrong with your parent. You should encourage them to see a doctor as soon as possible once you notice that something’s wrong, instead of trying to figure it out for yourself.

5.    Encourage your parent to visit their doctor

When changes to someone close to you become apparent, it’s important to encourage them to seek a medical assessment from their doctor.

It can be a difficult conversation to have and you’ll have to approach the subject with a strategy in mind. Find a comfortable place and determine a time of day when your mom or dad will be most receptive to talking. You might choose to mention the symptoms you’ve been noticing, and asking how they’ve been feeling lately (e.g., if they’ve been having trouble sleeping or have been stressed). You can suggest that they see a doctor to discuss their symptoms.

Keep in mind that the conversation might not go as planned. Your parent might not be aware of their symptoms or be in denial of them. They might also be aware of what might be wrong with them and become scared or worried, both perfectly normal reactions. If they do indeed have dementia, and it has progressed from the early stages already, the very nature of the disease might prevent them from recognizing the changes you’ve noticed and think that the need to see the doctor is unnecessary.

If this is the case, you can always suggest a trip to the doctor for other reasons, such as a blood pressure test or an overall physical checkup. Either give their doctor the heads up about your concerns beforehand or try to accompany your parent to the appointment so you can ensure that their symptoms are mentioned.

6.    Offer support to your parent

You might not be able to accurately assess what’s wrong with your parent, but you can be there for them to offer as much support as they need. You can help by making the doctor’s appointment for them, helping them prepare a list of questions, concerns, or symptoms they’d like to tell the doctor, or drive them to the appointment. 

You can also attend the doctor’s appointment, with your parent’s permission. Take notes, answer questions, and help prompt your parent if they’re not remembering something the doctor asks them. The doctor may also give you instructions or information on treatment moving forward, so you can help your parent adapt to their new routines aligned with the doctor’s wishes.

7.    Take care of yourself

It can be upsetting when a parent begins to change due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It will not only progressively change their lives, but depending on your level of involvement, could trigger dramatic adjustments to your routine as well.

Stress is a normal, healthy reaction when someone close to you becomes unwell. Becoming overly anxious and worrisome or feeling overwhelmed can negatively affect your own health and well-being. Symptoms such as loss of sleep, hyperventilation, or depression can occur when we’re subject to undue stress and worry.

Even if you’re a primary caregiver to your parent, be sure to take time for yourself. Get exercise daily, even if you just go for a brisk walk, and focus on good nutrition at mealtime. 

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia support in Etobicoke and Toronto

Should your parent receive a positive Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis, you and your parent should expect significant changes over time as the condition progresses. 

However, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone in this. There are many support programs out there that specialize in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care ready and are willing to help you and your parent take on this new journey with confidence. 

When you need support with your parent’s healthcare needs, CareHop can help. Our caregivers specialize in professional Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care. We strive to bring joy and fulfillment into your parent’s life, with thoughtful, respectful, and empathetic care that focuses on their needs and the wishes of your family. 

For more information about our programs or if you have any questions, please reach out to us anytime.

About the Author

Michael Lu is the founder of CareHop, specializing in providing compassionate support for individuals and families touched by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

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