The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family while creating lasting memories, for children and aging parents alike. There are always the usual stresses that arise this time of year, like making sure gifts are bought, meals are sorted, and activities are planned to keep everyone happy. However, […]
It can be difficult when you first start to notice the mental effects of aging in your loved one, whether that be forgetting a detail of a story or a hard time concentrating on a task at hand. While it's tough to see, it's often a normal side effect of getting older. This assumption can prevent people from taking the right steps to address cognitive impairment in the elderly, when it does begin to occur. First, it is important to become well-informed to understand the common signs and taking the necessary measures to prevent and help. To prepare, we've put together five things you should know about senior cognitive issues:
What is cognitive impairment, and what causes it?
Cognitive impairment is a decline in mental function. Those with cognitive issues have a more difficult time with basic functions of the brain, such as concentration, learning, perception, memory, and reasoning/decision-making skills.
Studies show that people experience a cognitive decline after the age of 60, but that number can vary depending on the person. While advancing age is the most obvious cause of cognitive issues in seniors, there are a variety of others: Alzheimer's, dementia, medications, depression, stroke, brain tumor, diabetes, family history, brain damage, and physical inactivity.
There are different types of cognitive impairment
Cognitive issues range from mild to severe. If your loved one has mild cognitive impairment (MCI), they may have more cognitive issues than normal for their age, but symptoms don't interfere with their daily lives. Those with severe cognitive impairment experience more serious symptoms: they can lose the ability to talk, write, eat, and understand meaning; have mood swings and a confusion in identity; and demonstrate poor hygiene and judgment. Unlike with MCI, if your loved one has severe cognitive issues, they cannot continue to live independently.
How to assess if your senior has cognitive issues
While we've already addressed some signs of cognitive issues in seniors, here's a more complete list of what to look for:
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Memory problems
- Not recognizing familiar places or people
- Change in vision/visual perception
- Repeating questions or stories
- Difficulty finding the "right words"
- Slower processing speed (takes longer to perform a mental task)
- Difficulty making decisions and exercising judgment
- Harder time concentrating/losing train of thought
- Misplacing things more often that usual
How to help prevent cognitive issues in your senior
If you haven't yet seen signs of cognitive issues in your loved one or elderly parent, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of them popping up. Many of the habits/activities you associate with good health in general can also help lower the possibility of cognitive decline. These include getting the proper amount of sleep, active formal learning, exercise, staying socially engaged, treating mental health issues, eating well, and challenging the brain in new ways.
How to help once your senior has cognitive issues
The first thing you should do if you notice signs of cognitive impairment in your loved one is take them to a doctor to get a medical assessment. A proper examination and diagnosis can help reverse some symptoms, decide treatment options, and plan for the future. It's crucial to ask questions and educate yourself.
There are other measures you can take that are just as applicable in the "after" stage as they are in the "before": make sure your loved one continues to stay active, participates in mentally stimulating activities, and remains social. The most important thing is to be patient and attentive to their needs.
If cognitive impairment worsens to the point they cannot live independently, it's time to determine alternate living options. While many families opt to become personal caregivers for their aging loved ones, this can become overwhelming for some, and they learn they cannot do it on their own. If this is the case, an assisted living group home might be a better option for you and your family member.
If you're considering assisted living and would like to learn more, please call Paradise Living Centers at (480) 878- 4112.