The holidays are a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends, share in special traditions, enjoy your favorite foods and create new memories. Visits with older relatives can also be helpful in spotting health issues, especially if you don’t see each other often.
In between the laughter and sips of eggnog, take some time to look for the early signs of dementia. Catching Alzheimer’s disease or other memory issues early gives you, your loved one and your family more time to plan for the future. Of course, more time to plan means more options, including supportive services offered by senior living communities like Beatitudes Campus.
During your visit, be sure to watch for these and other early signs of dementia. Don’t panic if you see something concerning. Some signs may be attributed to something else, such as side effects from a medication, vitamin deficiency, lack of sleep, low blood sugar, dehydration, injury due to a fall or other medical conditions. Unlike dementia, these can generally be reversed. If your loved one exhibits one or more of these early warning signs, a thorough exam by a doctor will help rule out another underlying cause.
6 Early Signs of Dementia
- Difficulty with complex tasks such as following a recipe, balancing a checkbook, playing a game or completing a puzzle. It takes a fair amount of cognitive brain power to process and properly implement a list of sequential actions, track and pay bills and adapt to changing situations as in gameplay. If your loved one isn’t able to engage in activities they once did easily, please bring this to the attention of a doctor.
- Difficulty following conversations or storylines in movies and TV shows. Holding a conversation with friends and neighbors challenges the brain in numerous ways — memory, comprehension, reasoning, empathy and more. The same holds true for following plots in movies and TV shows. If an extrovert is now avoiding conversations or a long-time movie buff is only watching 24-hour cable news, they may be experiencing some cognitive issues, especially when paired with other signs.
- Loss of smell and taste. Is your loved one not eating as much or not enjoying holiday meals as they typically would? Allergies, smoking and COVID-19 can lead to a loss of smell and taste. However, some studies show it could be an early indication of problems in the part of the brain that processes these senses.
- Vision changes. Alzheimer’s disease can cause trouble with spatial relationships, depth perception and peripheral vision, even distinguishing between colors. Watch to see if your loved one bumps into furniture often, sets objects on the edge of tables and counters, gets into minor scrapes while driving or has trouble seeing the color of their pills. A standard eye test can detect structural changes in the retina and optic nerve, which may help identify seniors at risk for dementia.
- Repeatedly putting objects in strange places. From time to time, everyone misplaces something or absentmindedly puts an object in a weird place like socks in the refrigerator instead of the washer. If it seems to happen a lot, seek a doctor’s evaluation.
- Paranoia and unfounded accusations. As the underlying cause of dementia, whether from a disease or other medical condition, damages the brain, it can affect how a person perceives reality. It often leads to paranoia, a feeling of danger and mistrust in family and friends. Please don’t take this personally. Your loved one can’t help how they feel. Like other early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, it could be caused by an infection, medication, sleep deprivation, electrolyte imbalance or another medical condition. Make an appointment for your loved one to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Experts caution family members not to consider these symptoms in isolation but within the context of the person’s overall health. Even healthy people may exhibit mild symptoms but never develop dementia. Still, early warning signs are a signal to reach out for a doctor’s exam.
If you’re wondering if it’s the right time to seek help for your loved one, we invite you to learn more with our quick assessment tool. After answering a few questions, you’ll get personalized results in just four minutes.
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Trusted Memory Support in Phoenix
Should you or someone you love need memory support, Beatitudes Campus specializes in appropriate extended-care living options for older adults. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, our retirement community offers a full continuum of choices, including independent living, assisted living, rehabilitation therapies, home care, skilled nursing care and memory care. Our award-winning and nationally recognized Comfort Matters® program ensures residents with dementia enjoy the flexibility, freedom and respect to pursue their personal interests in a safe, nurturing setting.
To learn more about memory support at Beatitudes Campus, call 602.833.1358 or contact us online [https://beatitudescampus.org/contact-us]. We’re here to help.
At Beatitudes Campus, we’re leading the way in memory care and support. But, it hasn’t always been that way. Like so many other places, we took a traditional medical approach focused on organizational goals rather than each individual’s routines and preferences.
That all changed in 1997 when a team of caregivers at Beatitudes Campus began a multi-year journey of researching and developing Comfort Matters®, an innovative, person-centered way of supporting those who have trouble thinking.
“Advocacy and social justice are fundamental principles of Beatitudes Campus because of our roots in the United Church of Christ. We started with those commitments and beliefs,” explained Tena Alonzo, Director of Education and Research and Director of Comfort Matters at Beatitudes during an interview with ACCESS Health International, a healthcare think tank and advisory group.
In working with health experts around the country, what they learned changed everything about how to support people with dementia.
“We discovered that we didn’t know much about taking care of people with dementia. It took time to develop the culture, policies, and procedures to become as radically person-centered as we are today. It was a labor of love for everyone.”
Taking A Holistic Approach That Respects Autonomy
Tena and her team, which included Karen Mitchell, Registered Nurse and Comfort Matters Educator, realized that engagement, autonomy, and choice bore huge benefits for individuals with dementia—as they do for all people.
“If we can help people sleep when they are tired, they can wake refreshed and more often be their best selves. If people can eat what they want when they want—day or night, they tend to be healthier, happier, and live longer. If they’re able to enjoy their favorite and familiar activities, they feel content and calm,” said Alonzo.
The team found that caregiving in such a holistic way dramatically reduces the number of medications, which in turn reduces side effects and helps people feel better overall. With Comfort Matters, individuals experience lower rates of incontinence, less sundowning, and decreased hospitalizations. The Beatitudes Campus staff is happier, too. Less employee turnover means more continuity of care and more familiar faces for residents—a win-win for everyone.
Truly Knowing Each Person
The concept of serving people in such a profound way that respects their personal attachments to routines and preferences and honors the individual and their life experience became the mission. To make it happen, the team upended and recreated the existing care model that had been ingrained in society for 100 years. They pressed forward, educating and collaborating with Beatitudes Campus management and staff, doctors, regulatory agencies, and families.
Today, the entire Beatitudes Campus staff is empowered to engage and provide comfort to residents. From housekeepers and maintenance crews to the nurses and everyday caregivers, every single person is encouraged to be innovators and share ideas so we can all meet residents where they are.
With families as our partners, we can be better caregivers and help guide and educate families through this time, according to Alonzo. Because we see dementia in a different way, everyone—families, staff, and other residents on campus—feel more empowered and less afraid.
Translating What We Learned Into A Dementia-Friendly Place To Live
Beatitudes Campus serves people with all levels of physical and cognitive ability. Some live in their own apartment or patio homes while others live in suites designed for skilled nursing care, memory support, or assisted living. Because we care and respect each other, you’ll find residents of all abilities laughing and enjoying time together—eating lunch, putting on the miniature green, tapping their toes to a musical performance, and more.
Hard work, unyielding devotion, and the willingness to innovate—that’s how Beatitudes Campus transformed into a dementia-friendly community, and why we’re different.
“Most residents have 65 or more years of life behind them. We honor that person because of their life experience,” said Alonzo. “We must have a culture that allows people to be themselves. That is the heart of person-directed living.”
Here, you can read more about Tena Alonzo and her team’s innovative approach to helping people live with dementia. To learn more about Beatitudes Campus’ extraordinary memory support options, call us today at (602) 833-1358 or submit a contact form on our website.