Have you noticed a loved one having difficulty remembering recent events? More misplaced items? Seeing things (or people) that aren’t there? Asking the same question multiple times? Forgetting appointments? Getting lost in a familiar area? Behaving in a manner unlike themselves?
These are red flags for dementia. You need to make sure your loved one gets to a doctor sooner rather than later. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your loved one is too young to have dementia! My dad was only in his mid 50’s when he was diagnosed.
Getting to a doctor and speaking honestly with them about these concerns is imperative. There are some conditions that may cause dementia symptoms that can be reversed when caught in time. If the symptoms of dementia aren’t reversible then there are other reasons to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. First of all it gives your loved one a chance to make sure their affairs are in order and all their care wishes are known. Secondly, you have a chance to become informed about their condition and what is needed to care for them as the disease progresses.
Finding out that your loved one has dementia after they’ve lost their ability to think rationally can present you with a miriad of additional problems. They may not have been paying their bills. They may have fallen victim to one of the many money-swindling scammers that prey on the elderly. They may be suffering from malnutrition. They may be suffering from dehydration. They may not have been taking their medications correctly. They may have thrown out important documents. They may have started hoarding, turning their home into a dangerous place to be. They may not be able to legally indicate their wishes for any part of their future. If there is nothing in place for a power of attorney or advanced directive you may have to petition the courts for guardianship – a potentially complicated and expensive process.
Then, depending on family dynamics, you have to deal with other family members in denial. Family members who will try to take advantage of the loved one. I’ve seen more than one family literally at each other’s throats trying to get all they can from a failing parent or grandparent. These family dynamics can make something like getting court appointed guardianship even more difficult. Sometimes a judge will look at the family and appoint a 3rd party guardian.
I’m saying all of this because I figure if you’re reading my blog you; 1) really care about people and your family, 2) want to know the truth of the matter and 3) may be in a situation where this is important to know. Taking a proactive, involved role in helping your loved one is the best way to go. Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend there’s nothing going on, because it will be 1000x worse in the end.
You may find yourself embroiled in legal battles with family members.
You may have to make decisions about end of life care. Do you know if your loved one will wants to have feeding tubes? CPR? Placed on life support? Antibiotics? These difficult decisions could be yours to make without any input from your loved one, along with the heartache of never being certain that you’ve done what they really wanted.
If I could have one wish for the millions of families in this country having to face a diagnosis of dementia it would be that the diagnosis is made early and they take that time to get everything in place for when their loved one is no longer able to make rational decisions.