Caring for an aging parent is a task that is becoming increasingly common for adult children both here and around the world. While many of these aging parents require assistance to deal with mobility issues or physical impairments, many also exhibit a declining mental acuity that can range from simple, age-related memory loss to the more debilitating stages of dementia. For the adult children who have assumed the role of caretaker, any instance of memory loss can be troubling as they worry about what this type of decline will mean for their parent's future health and lifestyle. If you are currently taking care of an aging parent or will be assuming those duties in the near future, the following information can help you keep your loved one safe and healthy throughout this difficult time.
Understanding the condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
Chances are that instances of simple forgetfulness such as misplacing keys or forgetting where they last used their eyeglasses is not something to worry about. However, when these problems become persistent and begin to affect an aging parent's ability to function normally, their memory loss issues may have reached the intermediate stage known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). When this happens, simple acts of forgetfulness are much more prevalent and include problems such as the failure to remember names and details about close friends and family members and experiencing difficulties in functioning when placed in social situations.
While not everyone who exhibits signs of MCI will go on to develop more serious dementia, the condition does raise the potential risk for the development of Alzheimer's Disease and other severe memory loss conditions.
Understanding the signs of memory loss that should not be ignored
The progression of memory loss issues can be different for each person, making it difficult for caretaker children to know what to do when noting potential instances of forgetfulness or other behavioral clues. If your parent exhibits memory loss issues that present a real risk to their health and safety, these signs should never be ignored. Some common ones include:
If any of these or other signs or worsening memory loss are noted, it is important for caretakers to discuss them with their parent's medical care team as soon as possible. Since their doctor may want to know the frequency of these issues, consider keeping a log of occurrences with the time, date and other helpful information.
Care options for severe memory loss issues
When the memory loss issues become frequent and severe, your parent will no longer be able to safely live alone. When that time arrives, caretaker children will need to discuss the situation with their parent or parents, siblings, spouses, and the medical care team. In most cases, one of the following three options will be chosen:
Dealing with a beloved parent's memory loss issues can be a painful experience, but by knowing what to expect and working with qualified experts in the field, you can help your loved one adjust to necessary changes and continue to enjoy an excellent quality of life.
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