The journey when a family member is living with dementia is one often marked with uncertainty.
Recognizing the signs, understanding the prognosis, and knowing how to best care for a loved one with dementia can be overwhelming.
But you don’t have to go through it alone.
With knowledge and the right resources, it can also be a journey of resilience and profound love.
In this article, we’ll explore the early signs of dementia in family members, the stages, and the importance of early diagnosis. We’ll also discuss the care options available and the benefits of memory care communities.
Our objective is to provide you with the strength and confidence you need to navigate this challenging path, knowing you’re making the best decisions for your loved one.
Dementia is a general term for a group of conditions characterized by a decline in memory, problem-solving, language, and other cognitive skills that interfere with daily life and activities.
The condition is caused by damage to brain cells (neurons), affecting their ability to communicate, think, behave, and feel.
The earliest signs and symptoms of dementia include:
- Disruptions in daily life, such as forgetting recently learned information and dates, or asking the same questions repeatedly
- Difficulty planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images, such as distances, reading, or colors
- Problems with speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
When a family member begins to suspect dementia, perhaps noticing that their loved one is repeating themselves, forgetting common words, or losing their ability to do everyday tasks, the first step is to seek medical advice.
Typically, this begins with a visit to your loved one’s primary care doctor, who may refer them to specialists such as a neurologist, geriatrician, or psychiatrist specializing in geriatrics.
There isn’t a single test to determine if a person has dementia.
For example, a blood test cannot prove somebody has dementia. Rather, diagnosis is made through a careful medical evaluation, including a thorough medical history, mental status testing, physical and neurological exams, and blood tests and brain imaging to rule out other causes of symptoms.
Diagnosing dementia can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it’s an important step in ensuring your loved one receives the appropriate care and treatment.
Supporting them during this stage will remind them that they are also not alone in this journey.
Dementia is defined as having seven distinct stages. Each stage varies in length and can last from months to years.
The seven stages of dementia are:
- No Impairment: At this stage, there’s no noticeable decline in memory.
- Very Mild Decline: Minor memory problems may emerge, but they’re often indistinguishable from normal age-related memory loss.
- Mild Decline: Friends and family might begin to notice cognitive problems. Performance on memory and cognitive tests is affected.
- Moderate Decline: At this point, clear-cut symptoms are observable. Problems with simple arithmetic, forgetting details about one’s life, managing finance and cooking meals may become prominent.
- Moderately-Severe Decline: During this stage, individuals may need help with many day-to-day activities, like dressing or eating. They may also forget details such as their address or phone number, or the schools they attended.
- Severe Decline: People at this stage may need constant supervision and professional care. They may also have difficulty recognizing family members.
- Very Severe Decline: This is the final stage of the disease where individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment or communicate.
You possess the strength and compassion to provide unwavering support and love to your family member with dementia. You can make a positive difference in their life.
The best ways you can help yourself and your loved one cope with dementia, include:
- Education: Learn as much as possible about dementia to anticipate changes and understand behaviors. Visit our blogs or Kensington Konnect for more educational resources.
- Support groups: Joining a caregiver support group, such as our Monthly Caregiver Connect, can offer a safe space to share experiences and gain advice. Sign up for our Kensington Caregiver Club to receive mobile updates including tips for caregivers and upcoming educational events.
- Self-care: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep can help manage stress and prevent caregiver burnout.
- Respite care: Make use of respite care services to take short-term breaks from caregiving.
- Seek professional help: Consider seeking help from a counselor or therapist to cope with the emotional stress of caregiving.
As the caregiver of your loved one, you’re already offering in-home care, but you may lack specialized training for dealing with the complexities of dementia.
As the disease progresses, in-home care might not be enough. It can become isolating for both your loved one and you, the caregiver.
We also offer social interaction with others at the same stage, which can be comforting and beneficial for individuals living with dementia who are looking to connect with others.
Recognizing when it’s time to ask for additional support is a vital step in the journey with dementia.
At this stage, it’s essential to look for a community that offers not only exceptional care but also a place that feels like home. Kensington Park Senior Living is that place, promising a wealth of resources designed with your loved one in mind.
At Kensington Park Senior Living, Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. We offer multiple levels of care, including:
- Independent living
- Assisted living
- Three tiers of specialized memory care
- The Kensington Club is our day program in our assisted living neighborhood, for current and new residents with early-stage memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, or a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia. It features a strong relationship-based focus, peer support, sensory movement, and family participation.
- Connections is for early to mid stages of dementia with a 1:7 care to resident ratio. Our goal is to help residents stay engaged in activities that give meaning and purpose to their lives.
- Haven is for late to advanced stages with a 1:5 care to resident ratio. Residents in this neighborhood receive a higher level of assistance and care. Our goal is to maximize comfort, minimize agitation, and soothe compassionately.
We invite you to join us at Kensington Park Senior Living, where we strive to enhance the quality of life for your loved ones in a setting that feels like home.
Our compassionate team is ready to listen, advise, and assist you in this journey—together.