Loss of memory may be a part of the aging process. Unfortunately, most seniors will rarely inform their physician if they are experiencing memory issues. This avoidance of the possible condition often can cause more harm than it helps. It can also add more stress to the family members, whether or not they are providing the care that is needed or not.

When thinking about and planning for your aging parents, how do you know when memory issues are serious enough to warrant intervention? How do you know what is “normal” and what is not? Let us discuss some warning signs your aging parent may need to consider memory care planning sooner rather than later.

1. Appearance Changes. Declining mental status frequently manifests in significant appearance or hygiene changes. A parent may forget to bathe, stop putting an effort into his or her appearance, or continuously wear the same outfit either from forgetting to tend to hygiene or confusion regarding the steps involved. You know your parent best and are in a good position to evaluate a significant change in appearance. Do you live far away? Don’t hesitate to use a video call to check in when you can

2. Weight Loss. When a person is experiencing the onset of dementia, weight loss can result from several causes. The simplest reason may be forgetting to eat, but it can also be from getting lost on the way to the grocery store, misplacing credit cards, or forgetting the steps involved in cooking.

A combination of these factors may make the process of shopping for and eating food feel too overwhelming, and the individual loses interest. The senior may also choose not to ask for help out of fear and simply try to survive on what they have. If you notice a sudden unexplained weight loss, you may want to engage your parent in a conversation about meals and grocery shopping. From a safety perspective, you should also determine whether there are any risks of cooking related injuries, including burns or leaving the stove on, which may warrant immediate intervention.

3. Not Taking Prescribed Medication. If pills are piling up, or your parent begins experiencing medical symptoms from not taking the proper medications, such as suddenly increased blood pressure or elevated blood sugar, there is the possibility he or she is forgetting to take his or her prescribed medications.

4. Getting Lost. Both wandering and getting lost during routine outings are primary signs of early onset dementia and other memory conditions. If you suspect this is occurring with your parent, try to talk about it. Your parent, however, may be unwilling to discuss it out of fear or shame, or his or her memory loss may result in him or her being too confused to fully comprehend the situation. If you suspect your parent may be wandering or getting lost, try to visit your parent at a different time or ask neighbors to call you if they see anything out of the ordinary.

If you observe these symptoms in your parent, first make sure he or she is in a safe environment and then develop a plan to check on him or her more frequently. After this, speaking with his or her physician can provide you guidance in getting him or her appropriate memory care. Our office is here to help you navigate the legal issues related to seeking and covering the cost of long-term care, as well as the accompanying legal planning. We encourage you to contact our law firm to schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum.