8 Red Flags of Dementia to Look For When Visiting Aging Parents

Nov 8, 2021 | Signs, Symptoms and Science of Dementia

Visiting Older Parents Over the Holidays?

I try to talk with my parents on the telephone several times a week, but now that I am visiting them for the holidays, I see signs that something is just not right. 

Mom and I typically giggle over our shared moments of forgetfulness, like the day she was trying to find her glasses and she was already wearing them.

But now that I am in my parent’s home, I see obvious red flags that her difficulties with everyday circumstances are much more serious than a normal case of forgetfulness. 

I am also alarmed by my father’s behavior. 

He went to the store for one item and was gone for nearly two hours. Mom remarked, “He just wanders around because he has nothing better to do. He has always dawdled around!”

She didn’t seem concerned, but I believe he had gotten turned around while he was out, and that frightens me because he’s made that same trip to the store for most of his adult life.

My parents have been living together for so many years, and now that they are aging, they don’t seem to notice any changes in behavior and forgetfulness in each other. 

I cannot help but feel alarmed. Are they deteriorating and do they need help? 

An Overview of Dementia 

Symptoms of dementia typically appear subtle in the early stages, and most involve short-term memory. 

Memory loss by itself does not mean that someone has dementia. 

The fact is that dementia is a collective term that describes two or more symptoms that greatly interfere with daily life and activities, which may include, but is not limited to memory loss and thinking difficulties. 

Also, the chances that a person will be diagnosed with dementia increases with age, but it is not a normal part of aging. 

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Here are Eight Red Flags of Dementia to Look For When Visiting Aging Parents this Holiday Season

What are the early signs of dementia, and what should I look for when I visit my parents to ensure they do not need help? 

1. Memory Loss

This most common sign of dementia typically appears as a subtle loss of short-term memory.

Your mother may not remember to take wet clothes out of the washing machine, for example, but she may remember vivid details of your childhood birthday party from thirty years ago.

What to look for: 

Does your parent remember long-term past details, but struggles to remember what is currently going on in their life? Does your parent have difficulty remembering what they are doing at the moment? Does your parent often fail to remember what happened minutes, hours, or a few days ago? 

Related article: The Difference Between Aging and Forgetfulness: The Early Signs of Dementia

2. Difficulty with Communication

This early symptom of dementia typically takes on the form of not being able to communicate thoughts into words. 

What to look for: 

Is your parent having difficulty with expressing themselves? Does your parent struggle with relaying fine details, like what they are looking for, or what they might be missing, or what they might be confused about? Is your parent losing their ability to describe their surroundings, circumstances, or other intricate details about their environment and life? 

3. Difficulty Completing Everyday Routine Tasks

We all have difficult moments when we cannot seem to put one foot in front of the other! But dementia interferes with our ability to complete everyday routine tasks. 

Your mother, who has washed the same dishes in the same kitchen for many years, may suddenly become confused and unable to remember what she needs to do next, and then she might not remember which cabinets the dried dishes belong in. 

What to look for: 

Does your parent struggle with completing everyday routine tasks? Does your parent fail to keep up with household necessities? Does your parent forget to take their medications, take out the trash on the correct day, or do they forget to bathe or engage in self-care? 

4. Repetition

As humans, we love to tell others about the things that are dear to our hearts. We may tell the same story to the same person more than once, but, when it becomes repetitive, especially in a short period, it can be a sign of dementia. 

What to look for: 

Does your loved one regularly repeat themselves? Do they tell the same story day after day? Do they ask the same questions even though you’ve answered them just an hour or a day ago? 

5. Mood Changes

My goodness, mom is really upset. I have never seen her act like this, and it seems she can switch behaviors so suddenly! 

What to look for: 

Has your parent’s overall behavior changed, and do they suddenly shift to behavior such as confusion, suspicion, depression, depression, fear, or anxiety? Has your parent withdrawn from associating with family or friends? 

6. Time or Place Confusion

All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, dad wasn’t sure where he was and what time it was. It was shocking to see! Should I be concerned? Yes, this goes hand-in-hand with the signs of cognitive difficulties related to dementia. It is also a common reason dementia patients easily get lost in familiar surroundings. 

What to look for: 

Is your loved one getting lost, even when in familiar environments? Does your loved one experience confusion with the current time or place? 

7. Visual Difficulties

My father was talking about a spider web. I didn’t see the spider web, but then I realized that he was looking at a dusty fan and he was not processing what he was seeing correctly. 

Things to look for: 

Does your parent have trouble reading when they’ve never had difficulties processing words before? Is your parent having more issues with stumbles and falls? Is your parent having difficulty distinguishing between colors? Is your parent looking at objects and not processing what they are seeing correctly? 

Related article: Common Ailments, Conditions, and Symptoms that Come with Dementia

8. Apathy

When a person takes on a demeanor of apathy, it can also look like depression or a loss of energy, all of which are early signs of dementia. 

Things to look for: 

Has your parent’s demeanor changed to a state of indifference? Have they stopped smiling? Does it appear that your parent has gone into a state of depression? Has your parent stopped enjoying their life? 

If you are seeing signs of dementia, reach out for help

If you notice any of these signs of dementia, it can be helpful to write down your concerns – keep a journal of what you see, and then reach out to others. 

Reach out to family members or close friends of your loved ones to compare and gather notes. 

Prompt your loved one to schedule an appointment with their physician and offer to go with them. The physician will study your parent’s medical history and will determine if dementia testing is needed. 

If you are in the Round Rock, Texas, area, consider reaching out to one or several of the various elderly care organizations available as a resource and help, as well as local physicians who specialize in dementia (read more at our blog, Round Rock Elderly Care Organizations). 

We know that you want the best life for your loved one, and if that includes memory care, know that this is all we do…and we are really good at it. 

If you are in or plan to be in the Round Rock or North Austin, Texas area, we would love to help you with your questions! Contact us online or schedule a virtual tour online or call us at 512-399-5080.