As we age, our brains develop in a way that is unique to us. We have different genetics, and throughout our lives, we care for our health in various fashions. As a result, we all progress into older age on individual paths that may begin to diverge from healthy aging.
When it comes to cognitive functioning, there is a difference between natural age-related forgetfulness and memory impairment. We all maintain a natural baseline for thoughts, behaviors, and actions, but our brain patterns can change due to cognitive decline.
While there are many changes that can take place as your loved one ages, changes that affect their ability to care for themselves may require specific attention. If you notice your loved one is exuding changes in personality with increased memory loss, they may benefit from specialized senior memory care.
When an aging loved one is beginning to show inhibiting signs of cognitive decline, it could be time to consider additional support geared toward keeping them safe, healthy, and happy.
Outlining healthy aging
While pockets of forgetfulness are all but inevitable, as your loved one ages, you may begin to see signs of memory loss across different parts of their life. Whereas individual instances of misremembering the name of a book or occasionally needing help to record a TV show are natural, there are symptoms associated with memory loss that may indicate a decline in cognitive function.
If your loved one is experiencing a decreased ability to engage with their surroundings, it may be difficult for them to recognize their need for increased support. By pinpointing signs of underlying cognitive impairment, you can catch the symptoms they may be missing.
Defining memory loss
When changes in the brain begin to affect memory, a senior may be experiencing dementia. Dementia is the result of changes in the brain that no longer follow the path of healthy aging, resulting in the brain’s inhibited ability to carry out its natural functions.
As a broad term for loss of memory, dementia covers all diminished thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Due to its ability to affect different parts of the brain, the outward-facing symptoms can vary from person to person.
Most often, signs of memory loss can be seen across someone’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. While indicators like losing their wallet may be a sign of dementia, shifts in mood and behaviors can also indicate decline in brain functioning.
Between 60-80% of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, which is a condition that affects a part of the brain that involves learning. Alzheimer’s can be recognized by disorientation and confusion, and, over time, symptoms can become increasingly more severe.
In its early stages, you may recognize indicators of Alzheimer’s like one’s difficulty in remembering new information. Down the line, those with late-stage Alzheimer’s may lose their ability to remain present in conversations.
To keep individuals experiencing memory loss in line with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease safe, added support may be necessary. As many conditions are progressive, early signs of an abnormal decline in memory may indicate a need for specialized memory care.
If you notice your loved one is having uncharacteristic, increased difficulty surrounding memory, do not hesitate to reach out for support. When someone is experiencing challenges that affect their cognitive functioning, it can be difficult for them to recognize their need for help.
Spotting a need for memory care
While everyone is different, and dementia can span a wide array of symptoms, there are a number of indicators that point to an older adult experiencing cognitive symptoms that require the support of a memory care team.
Disruptive memory loss
Whether your loved one has always remembered birthdays or they have never been able to remember where they left their keys, everyone has their own natural baseline for memory. However, an individual struggling with cognitive decline will exude signs outside their personal normal.
Taking into consideration your loved one’s unique relationship for remembering things, and keeping in mind slips of memory are a normal part of aging, you can assess whether shifts in behavior are interfering with their daily life.
If you notice a reduced ability to retain recently learned information, which could be seen through relying on memory aids like notepads or asking the same question multiple times, you may be noticing signs of dementia.
Challenges with communication
As everyone’s communication style is specific to them, challenges regarding someone’s patterns of communication may look different. There is no single checklist for trouble surrounding communication, so keep track of any changes you may notice.
If your loved one is routinely struggling to find the right words to express their thoughts, losing focus in conversations, or repeating themselves often, these may be signs that point to early stages of dementia. You may notice your loved one takes longer to explain what they are thinking, and their explanations may be unclear.
Broadly, individuals experiencing inhibiting memory loss can struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming familiar objects, and grapple with referencing items correctly. As these moments can be stressful for some individuals, creating a space for them to sit with their thoughts can be beneficial, though they may be signs that require specialized memory care.
Loss of interest
If your loved one has had a noticeable shift in their willingness to engage with those in their lives, they could be coping with their different way of interacting with the world. Withdrawal can be a natural instinct for someone under mental distress, and this behavior acts as an indicator for difficulties that may require heightened care.
When an individual begins to experience a decreased ability to remember their surroundings, or remain present, they may become uninterested in events or obligations they would normally be engaged in.
If you have noticed your loved one is no longer taking part in hobbies or keeping up with events that have always been important to them, it is possible they may be withdrawing in an effort to protect themselves. Often, those around someone can first identify when cognitive behaviors are impacting daily living, and they may not recognize this different pattern of behavior.
Difficulty regulating mood
When someone is experiencing changes in the patterns of their brain function, they may begin to interact with different situations in a way that is outside their usual approach.
If your loved one has been continually more fearful or anxious, you may first recognize their trouble in regulating their mood by their reactions. When someone experiences a heightened difficulty maintaining their mood, they can exhibit symptoms of dementia like increased anger or irritability.
While differences in mood can be a reaction to life-changing events, if your loved one is showing severe mood fluctuations that are not in line with their reality, then you may be seeing signs that specialized memory care could best support them.
Changes in personality
As impaired cognitive functions can impact several aspects of one’s daily living, an individual exhibiting signs of dementia may present differently than they have in the past, and they may seem like they are operating on a frequency outside of their personality.
Outwardly, you may find your loved one in a depressive state or with increased difficulty in being outside their comfort zone. When someone is easily confused, they may become upset and interact with situations and those around them in an irregular way.
Individuals navigating challenges with memory may not recognize how they are presenting differently, and, further, they may not be able to ask for help. If you have noticed continued shifts in your loved one’s personality, they may be due to memory impairment.
Senior memory care services
If your loved one is experiencing memory loss, you can find support with senior memory care services including social support, stimulating activities, and a customized memory care plan. As cognitive decline is specific to everyone, and it can present in many different ways, a trained team dedicated to your loved one’s specific needs can help ease them through aging.
With memory-specific caregiver options for seniors, those experiencing signs of dementia – both early and later on – can experience relief from daily strain.
When your loved one requires a higher level of care, and when you need help as a caregiver, you can start the conversation for increased support. With a patient, understanding team, you and your loved one can navigate the hurdles surrounding memory loss.