Noticing a decline in the mental acuity of an aging parent is a difficult time in life. At first, the natural reaction is likely to be one of disbelief that the strong parent who raised you could be becoming weaker and older. But when the lapses of memory or other troubling behaviors become more frequent, you realize that you must take action, even though it is likely to be uncomfortable to do so, to ensure that your aging parent can continue to be safe and secure. If you have recently become aware that your parent may be experiencing some type of age-related memory issue, here are some proactive questions to help you address the situation correctly.
Is your parent at risk?
The first question to ask is whether your parent's current level of memory loss makes it unsafe for them to continue in their current living arrangement. Some clues to help you make this determination include:
- Evidence of mismanaging medications or dosages
- Evidence of forgetfulness that could result in injury, such as forgetting to lock doors or turning the kitchen stove off after cooking
- Evidence of unsafe driving, such as becoming lost, failure to obey traffic laws and road signs, or experiencing an at-fault accident
This type of behavior is a good indication that your parent is not safe living on their own, and you will need to consider arranging live-in care or making other living arrangements where they can be supervised. If they are still driving at this point, their safety and that of other drivers and pedestrians may depend upon them giving up that privilege.
Have medical or health issues, other than aging, been ruled out?
If the instances of memory loss or confusion have occurred suddenly or have become noticeable after a change in medication, it can be helpful to review your parent's medication and dosage amounts with their doctor and pharmacist. Reactions to medications or dosage amounts can lead to symptoms that mimic serious age-related memory loss and may be able to be alleviated with a simple change in dosage or medication type.
While some instances of memory loss are considered to be a normal part of aging and are rarely more than an inconvenience, those that affect the quality of life may be related to dementia and can be to expected to grow progressively worse over time. To learn more about memory loss and the options for memory care available to your parent, take time to speak with a trusted nursing home and assisted living care provider in your area.