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How to Respond to Signs of Cognitive Decline in a Loved One

Forgetfulness and memory lapses are normal parts of aging. Memory loss and cognitive changes that interfere with daily living are not. 

If your senior loved one is experiencing confusion, agitation, and a decline in their reasoning skills, you may be concerned. 

Your loved one may not recognize their personality changes or memory loss. They may even be in denial. If you’re worried about your senior loved one’s health and well-being, the best first step would be to contact their physician. 

A physician can evaluate your loved one’s symptoms and medical history and run further testing if needed to determine whether changes are due to aging, a mild cognitive impairment, or a memory disease. 

Learn more about the signs and causes of cognitive decline, the difference between normal aging and dementia, how to prevent dementia, and where to find your loved one memory care

What are the signs of cognitive decline?

Depending on the cause of your senior loved one’s cognitive decline, they may not experience each symptom listed below. Especially if their decline is due to mild cognitive impairment.

With a memory disease, your loved one may have very few symptoms initially. However, as their disease progresses and their cognitive processes decline, their memory disease will become more prominent. 

While not all seniors who experience a cognitive decline will develop a memory disease, approximately 10 million seniors do each year. For that reason, it is wise to be informed of the signs, causes, and memory care options available to older adults. 

Common signs of cognitive impairment include: 

  • Becoming more impulsive
  • Confusion 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Forgetting appointments and events 
  • Forgetting names
  • Forgetting recent conversations
  • Misplacing items
  • Losing train of thought
  • Getting lost
  • Losing the ability to organize tasks

Emotional symptoms 

  • Aggression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Emotional outbursts

Physical symptoms 

  • Poor motor coordination 
  • Changes in handwriting 
  • Slurring speech 

If your senior loved one is experiencing many of these symptoms, it could be time to transition them to a supportive memory care community. Once your loved one has their mild cognitive impairment diagnosed, it can get challenging for a caregiver to support a loved one alone. 

Causes of cognitive decline 

There are various reasons why your loved one may be enduring symptoms of cognitive decline. 

Blood testing and a medical evaluation can detect causes unrelated to long-term memory loss or memory disease.

Curable causes

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Medication side effects
  • Metabolic imbalances
  • Hormone problems
  • Infections
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Substance abuse 

Incurable memory diseases

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Mixed Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease 

There is no cure for neurodegenerative memory diseases. Medications and treatments can only help slow their progression and uncomfortable symptoms.

What is the difference between normal aging, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia?

We know it can be hard to tell what your loved one is going through and if it’s normal. 

As we’ve mentioned, there are several possible causes of a decline in cognitive function in your loved one. We’ve outlined some main differences between cognitive impairment, dementia, and normal aging below. 

A normal aging brain

As the brain ages, it goes through a series of changes. It shrinks in size, becomes more susceptible to white matter lesions, and loses neurotransmitters. These changes can lead to a small or large amount of cognitive decline. 

A senior without a memory disease or impairment will occasionally forget dates, words, and appointments. They may even struggle to pay attention or multitask. But, their cognitive abilities will basically remain the same. 

These small changes will likely go unnoticed and not affect their daily lives.

Mild cognitive impairment

With mild cognitive impairment, a senior will have those same memory lapses, but they will occur more often. While they will still be relatively independent, they may benefit from an assisted living community. 

Without a caregiver or support, they may fail to make appointments, balance their checkbook, and pay their bills. In an assisted living community, they can remain independent while receiving the assistance they need to maintain their quality of life. 

Dementia 

Dementia significantly impairs cognitive function.

Seniors with dementia will display signs of memory loss, personality changes, mood changes, odd or inappropriate behaviors, and difficulties with daily tasks such as getting dressed, problems with balance, and wandering. 

This degree of cognitive decline typically requires a compassionate memory care community where seniors can receive 24-hour assistance. 

Preventing cognitive decline 

It’s never too late to improve or maintain brain health. 

Even seniors who have already been diagnosed with a mild cognitive impairment or Dementia can benefit from making healthy changes. 

The best ways to support your brain health and fight against memory loss are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, staying physically active, and getting enough quality sleep. 

While living a healthier lifestyle can’t cure a memory disease, it can help slow down its progression and improve your senior’s mood and well-being. 

Socializing, life enrichment activities, and caring for plants, are beneficial for the body and brain too. Seniors should engage with others often and stimulate their minds with puzzles and card games. 

Sudden onset dementia 

Memory diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia typically progress slowly. However, a senior’s symptoms can develop suddenly and quickly in some cases. 

Some of the leading causes of rapidly progressive dementia stem from Whipple disease, urinary tract infection, and pneumonia. 

Cancers, toxins, Lyme disease, and autoimmune conditions can lead to a fast cognitive decline as well. 

The sooner a medical health professional can examine a senior, the sooner they can diagnose their condition and determine if there is a treatment available.

When a senior is suffering sudden-onset dementia due to a condition that can be treated, treating it can protect them from further brain cell damage. 

Memory care at The Kensington Sierra Madre

At The Kensington Sierra Madre, Our Promise is to love and care for your senior loved one as we would our own. 

Our compassionate staff and on-site health professionals will support your loved one through all senior life stages. Whether they are independent, require some memory care, or need high acuity care, we are here for them. 

Your loved one can live healthily and happily in our safe homes with highly trained staff, rehabilitation, wellness programs, delicious and healthy dining services, and life-enrichment activities. Our two levels of memory care – Haven and Connections, are centered around finding the best care for your loved one. 

Contact us to learn more about our beautiful assisted living community, cozy and secure memory care neighborhoods, amenities, and caregiver resources. 

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