While many seniors with early-stage dementia can live independently or with the assistance of family caregivers, those with more advanced cognitive decline may require the assistance of specially trained dementia care professionals in memory care communities. However, because dementia symptoms can change from day to day or from moment to moment, determining when it’s time for memory care can be difficult. When should dementia patients go into memory care facility?
“When discussing memory care or another type of living arrangement, Doctors focus on the ability to perform activities of daily living and safety.”
Continue reading to learn what signs of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia doctors look for, as well as some simple tools they use to measure cognitive decline.
How Do Doctors Determine When Memory Care Is Required
“Often, seniors come in for routine physicals and are hesitant to bring up memory problems. “It’s almost always the children who bring up memories, or it’s a process of uncovering dementia signs.” Doctors look for red flags that indicate Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia during patient visits. Certain telltale signs may indicate that memory care is required. Always look for local memory care facilities in your town.
“When you look at someone, you can tell they’re not as well-dressed, their hair is disheveled, or they’ve lost significant weight because they didn’t eat,” he says. If a senior appears disoriented or agitated, or if they are unable to hold a conversation, this is cause for concern. Doctors may then ask questions about a senior’s daily life or conduct a brief mental status exam.
When someone requires memory care, they may experience difficulty with daily activities. The ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) — such as dressing, bathing, and using the restroom — is a common litmus test for determining whether a senior requires additional assistance.
A doctor may inquire about a senior’s abilities and safety by asking if they:
- Get lost on familiar routes, such as going to the grocery store or walking around the neighborhood.
- Having difficulty remembering to eat or drink
- They are not taking their medication correctly.
- are having difficulty bathing or dressing as usual
- If any of these warning signs are present, your loved one’s doctor may recommend a mental status examination.
Concerns about safety may indicate that memory care is required
Bringing up safety concerns, according to Branshaw, is an important way to make family members aware of dementia behaviors. He may inquire of relatives or caregivers whether:
- Their elderly relative leaves burners or appliances on after cooking.
- A pet is being properly cared for.
- There have been many visits to the emergency room.
- Their elderly parent has any bruises that they cannot explain or remember receiving.
- Wandering or becoming lost has put their loved ones in danger.
- Consider whether your senior family member’s safety needs are being met, or whether they could benefit from additional assistance to avoid dangerous situations.
A mental status exam can help determine when memory care is required
“Doctor perform a very simple, reproducible test in the office that only takes a couple of minutes.” If the patient is able to read, the mental status exam may provide a reliable baseline for monitoring dementia symptoms and memory loss. This exercise assesses a senior’s ability to: short-term recall, concentration, and spatial awareness.
Another common test is to ask someone to draw a clock. “Many dementia patients will draw all of the numbers in one corner rather than around the circle.” Most aging adults will go to their primary care doctor or geriatrician, who will run these baseline tests if they suspect memory problems. Following that, they may refer the patient to a neurologist or another specialist for additional testing and a specific diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia.
When Should You Consult a Physician About Memory Loss?
“When family caregivers notice signs of dementia, they should contact a doctor right away.” That way, we can get a baseline exam and track test results over time to see if memory loss is worsening.”
A senior may initially perform well on memory tests and have only a minor impairment, such as forgetting difficult words or where they left their glasses. However, it is never too early to raise these concerns: By bringing up the subject of dementia early on, you give your elderly parent or relative the opportunity to participate in senior living discussions. “It’s better to talk to the patient now when they have some autonomy and can participate in deciding what happens next.” “It is physically and medically beneficial for the senior to be a part of the decision and transition.” Talking to a doctor in the early stages of dementia can also help with difficult conversations. Professionals may be better suited to discuss issues such as driving safety, home modifications, and the transition to senior living.
Worrying behavioral changes, safety concerns, and caregiver burnout are all indicators that it’s time to consider a memory care facility. To help you assess your family’s situation, ask yourself these questions.
Have Friends or Family Members Commented on Behavioral Changes?
“Adult children or family caregivers frequently fail to notice something and believe their parent is fine.” This is because it can be difficult to notice gradual changes, such as consistent weight loss over several months, when you are caring for someone with dementia full-time. A family member or friend who only sees the person a few times a year may find this change shocking and obvious.
Is Your Family Member Agitated or Aggressive?
Dementia patients may experience confusion and tension, which can lead to violence or aggression. Caregivers may be kicked, hit, or orbit. Manipulation and verbal abuse are also common: Aging relatives may insult or accuse family members and friends of stealing. “Often, patients become agitated or defensive in the office when we start talking about dementia — that’s a red flag.”
Aggression is especially dangerous when a senior with dementia is being cared for by an elderly spouse, and it can lead to elder abuse. Because of sundown syndrome, agitation and violence are most common later in the day.
Alexi Senior Living is well known for its services. You should know dementia stages before its cure. One of our expert Alexi Senior Living Advisors will be reaching out to support your search. Need urgent assistance? Call us at (815) 534-5389.