How to spot the warning signs of dementia in your elderly loved ones

We all know it. We are all getting old and our parents are no exception. It seems to me that for them, it just feels harder to admit. They still act like they are young, and they’d like to maintain their lifestyle and do what they love. However, their memory and general cognitive abilities start to deteriorate. Our seniors may forget names or miss taking their medication. If you are worried whether what your elderly loved one is experiencing is part of the “normal” aging process or could be a sign of a more serious issue like dementia, read on.

What are the signs of dementia?

Dementia is not precisely a specific illness but rather a term used to define a general decline in mental ability. This disorder interferes with daily life and greatly increases a need for assistance from caregivers. Dementia is an umbrella term that can encompass various mental conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Symptoms of dementia may be difficulty in communicating and reasoning, memory loss, mood and personality changes, confusion, and more.

The primary symptom of dementia is short-term memory loss. This can manifest in everyday situations such as misplaced keys or leaving the light on in a room, which may cause frustration and anxiety. More advanced stages of the disease may be present if, for example, a senior cannot find their way home from the store, or cannot recognize a close loved one. This can be very dangerous and requires medical attention, therefore it is up to us to be aware of the signs and symptoms of dementia in our friends and family members.

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The seven stages of dementia

The Global Deterioration Scale, or GDS, is a scale created to indicate the various stages of the process of degenerative dementia: Stage 1 having no dementia, up to Stage 7, otherwise known as late dementia where patients require assistance 24/7.

Stage 2: Early signs of dementia may be noticeable, with everyday forgetfulness, but the signs are not yet fully apparent to friends and family.

Stage 3-5: From mild to moderate cognitive decline, family members of patients will notice difficulties in working, traveling, and other complex tasks. A physician will diagnose dementia. This may slowly result in seniors experiencing confusion and having difficulty remembering their address, phone number, as well as time and date.

Stage 6: Middle dementia, is where patients have severe memory problems, forgetting names of close family members. They require help with daily living, and may have issues such as incontinence, delusions, and the ability to speak and walk may drastically decline.

Stage 7: Severe cognitive decline requires extensive assistance to function in daily life, from eating to dressing.

How to help your loved ones through technology

If your senior has been diagnosed with dementia, or is showing some early signs, you can help them in plenty of ways in order for them to maintain their independence for as long as possible. Technology can be a great asset when it comes to helping those seniors in need of assistance. Using tech aids not only gives us and the elderly a sense of security, but it can also help improve brain health.

The Internet is nowadays an important gateway to a better quality of life for our seniors. Too many elderly today are isolated from their friends and family because of changing family dynamics as well as declining health. They may struggle with finding their way around online.

Video calling for the elderly

A senior-friendly, easy to use application is essential to help them gain independence on the Internet. Oscar Senior is a great tool for the senior population and their family members to start using. Online chat and video, for example, allows for instant connection to anyone anywhere. Oscar Senior has even auto-answer video calls, making it seamless especially for those with early stage of dementia or those who are not capable of answering the phone manually. Staying connected online improves mental health and even boosts brain power.

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With a good Internet connection, seniors can experience a myriad of opportunities to help slow down the process of dementia, more specifically, clinical trials to help those with dementia. A study conducted in Oregon, called I-CONECT, is aimed at staving off dementia by connecting seniors to trained conversationalists online through video chat. This solution is especially beneficial for those seniors who are socially isolated. In addition, these conversations conducted by professionals are directed towards problem solving, reasoning, and improving memory skills, or in other words, to invoke deeper thinking.

Dementia affects a large number of the senior population. According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people suffer from dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases diagnosed each year. This massive epidemic requires early detection and suitable long-term support in order to help seniors live a full, enriched life despite the challenges they face.

This article was written as a general guideline, and not by a medical professional. Turn to your family doctor or specialist for diagnosis and treatment.