Is Your Parent Exhibiting Normal Aging Problems Or Is It Dementia?


by: Mark K. Shackelford

A great many people today are facing the likelihood of assisting their older mothers and fathers. When taking care of older parents, it's not unusual to recognize "mental" problems that seem a little worse than normal. You assume it's normal, because they are growing older.

As even more elder care troubles and crisis situations arise, you realize that you are bogged down mainly addressing problems. You and your family don't know how to proceed other than waiting for the next challenge to come up. You truly want to make good decisions in order to best help out. In addition, you feel the necessity to create a plan.

It's important to understand what's really taking place with your parent because dementia and old age are related, but not the same. The essential link between dementia and old age is the fact that Alzheimer's disease as well as other kinds of dementia tend to occur more as you age. One in eight people age 65 or older have Alzheimer's disease, and the chance of Alzheimer's doubles every five years after age sixty-five. So the older you are, the greater the chances of developing dementia. However, because dementia is much more common among the elderly doesn't mean that it is normal. Relatively modest cognitive loss with age such as not being able to recollect a name and then remembering it later is normal. Dementia is much more problematic and is most often attributable to Alzheimer's disease or a different disease mechanism.

One other difference between old age and dementia is the rate of change. The pace of change in cognitive capacity will likely be fairly slow-moving for "normal" decline seen with age. Diseases including Alzheimer's march on and drive progressive decrease in memory in addition to changes in various other aspects of normal functioning. It is also common to observe judgment go from good to bad. Poor judgment could be affecting things like financial matters and as well, decisions pertaining to driving capability. Denial, paranoia and aggressive behavior are also common developments. This is often difficult to manage, however it is easier to have compassion and not take things personally as soon as you determine the behavior is being influenced by specific injury to the brain.

If you suspect that your loved one has dementia, it's important to get answers. Start your own analysis utilizing a basic tool such as the 10 Signs of Alzheimer's from the Alzheimer's Association. In this day and age of quick in and out visits to the doctor, a diagnosis that takes a significant amount of time such as Alzheimer's is rarely made by a family physician. It can take some time and effort from you to make sure your mother or father is seen by specialists who have experience with dementia diagnosis. You might need to start with a general practitioner to receive a referral.

You may help this process along by providing the physician a detailed history as well as your own personal observations of behavioral changes. Additionally, you might want to administer a cognitive assessment. A popular tool called SAGE is a short cognitive screening instrument to identify Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and early dementia. Average time to complete the exam is 10 to 15 minutes. SAGE can be downloaded from Ohio State University Medical Center.

A good diagnosis can lead to some valuable assistance, even in the scenario of Alzheimer's disease. There are several prescription drug treatment options which could significantly decrease anxiety, depression, or aggressive behavior symptoms that accompany dementia.

Being familiar with dementia will help you. If I had understood my father's illness I might have realized that it's impossible to win an argument. Understanding that a few of their logic circuits are not working properly will help you come up with many more creative methods to deal with problems.

Dementia isn't an ordinary element of old age. By knowing the difference you will have a far better idea of whether or not your mother or father has dementia. With that information and a good diagnosis you'll be considerably better prepared to plan for the future.

Mark has deep experience in elder care as a care giver and has done significant research on many elder care topics and concerns. If you have additional elder care questions, please check out Smart Elder Care Info at