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Is Mom Just Forgetful Or Is This Dementia?

When Dad died last year, Mom insisted that she could still manage to live in the house alone. However, for the past few months, you’ve noticed that things haven’t been quite normal when you’ve visited. Last week Mom couldn’t find her purse, and you found it in the freezer. Also, lately Mom has seemed confused about seemingly routine events. Even though you drive her to church every Sunday, last week when you arrived Mom wasn’t ready for church and didn’t remember that it was Sunday. When she we were ready to leave church, Mom asked, “Are the people who brought me here going to take me home?” You and your brother are worried that Mom may have dementia, but your sister has pointed out that Mom has always been forgetful and doesn’t think that you need to worry. How can you be sure that it is still safe for Mom to live alone?

While some memory loss is normal as we age, frequent and noticeable forgetfulness could be a sign that your loved one suffers from dementia. Normal forgetfulness does not worsen with time, but dementia often becomes more pronounced and disabling as time goes by. While forgetting the name of someone you met last week is normal, forgetting that your children take you to church every week is not. Also, people with dementia often act illogically. A few years ago, Mom might have left her purse in a different room and forgotten where she left it – a sign of forgetfulness. This time, putting her purse in the freezer may have made perfect sense to Mom, but you know that it is an unusual behavior. Mom is no longer able to recognize that her behavior is abnormal because of the way in which dementia has affected her brain.

Caring for a parent or other older loved one can often be difficult and confusing. Because diseases like Alzheimer’s are so often a topic of discussion in today’s society, many caregivers panic at the first sign that their loved one could have dementia. If you suspect that someone you know has dementia, it is important to schedule an appointment with a doctor so that they can be assessed for mental impairment. Until then, being able to recognize the differences between dementia and relatively normal “senior moments” can help alleviate your concerns and can allow you to make better decisions about your loved one’s daily needs.

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