Are you concerned about an aging parent’s cognitive skills? Geriatrician Leslie Kernisan, MD, shares tips on how to observe your parent if you’re worried about any Alzheimer’s behaviors or patterns.
Learn more about how to detect Alzheimer’s disease and how to find your parents the right care.
An Aging Parent’s Behavior
If you have concerns about an aging parent’s behavior or memory, you’ve probably wondered if they have Alzheimer’s or another dementia. What should you do about your worries? Tell the doctor.
If you’d like to share your concerns with your parent’s doctor but are worried about upsetting your parent, send the doctor your concerns in writing. No HIPAA authorization is needed for you to share your concerns with a parent’s health professional.
However, if you, your parent and your parent’s doctor truly want to get to the bottom of things, you can take a simple approach that is incredibly effective: start taking notes on the behaviors known to correspond with Alzheimer’s.
By doing so, you’ll be gathering the kind of detailed information that doctors (like myself) need in order to confirm cognitive issues and likely detect the disease.
8 Alzheimer’s Behaviors to Track
There are eight Alzheimer’s behaviors to track and for each of the behaviors that we’ll discuss, it’s important to take down the following:
- What kinds of problems you see your parent having now
- When you — or another person — first noticed problems, and what you observed
- Whether there’s been a change or decline compared to the way your parent used to be
- Whether this seems to be due to memory and thinking, versus physical limitations such as pain, shortness of breath or physical disabilities
Note: If you don’t notice a problem in any of the following areas, be specific in documenting this. (E.g., “No such problem noted.”) That way, you and your family will know you didn’t forget to consider that behavior.
1. Daily Struggles With Memory or Thinking
It’s normal for older adults to have a lapse here and there. But if your parent seems to experience a memory or thinking problem every day, make a note of this. It’s a good idea to add specific examples describing what you — or another person — observed.
2. Difficulty Learning to Use Something New
Any difficulty learning to use a new appliance or new gadget, such as a smartphone? Make note of what your parent has difficulty adapting to and how he or she tried to manage.
3. Difficulty Managing Finances
Have you noticed any problems managing bills, expenses or taxes? You might have to ask your parents about this if you aren’t usually involved in their finances.
4. Forgetting the Month or Year
Any difficulty keeping track of the current year or month? If it happens more than once, make a note of that especially.
5. Poor Judgment
Have you noticed any behaviors or situations that seem to indicate bad decisions? Any excessive or unusual spending? Or perhaps a poor understanding of safety concerns that everyone else is worried about? Write down anything you or another person close to your parents has observed.