dirty kitchen sinkUnlike many other health conditions, dementia comes on gradually and the early signs are often subtle and easy to miss. Signs of dementia can be disguised as irritability, sleeplessness, loss of confidence or changes in personality. It may be time to find a memory care facility for your loved one if the changes discussed below are affecting your living situation or you have concerns about any of the following:

1. Your loved one’s safety. Confusion or wandering may cause your loved one to get lost or fall. If your loved one has fallen, had a driving accident, or suffered an unexplained injury, you have reason for concern. If your loved one becomes agitated or physically violent or wanders, you have a real safety issue.

2. Caregiver burnout.  If a spouse or another family member is providing the bulk of care for your family member with Alzheimer's, the situation is not sustainable and is ultimately dangerous. Over time, the caregiver's physical and mental health will suffer, and you'll have another problem to solve.

3. Memory loss is preventing your loved one from taking care of her health.  One of the first things a person who has memory loss will be unable to do is keep track of her medicine. Failing to take prescribed medications on schedule -- or taking too much -- can lead to serious health problems. Dementia also affects your loved one's ability to prepare and eat a nutritious diet.

4. Isolation.  You can't take your mom out to eat, shop, or exercise because her behavior is so unpredictable. At the same time, if she doesn't have ways to be active and work out her energy, she's even more likely to be disruptive. Memory care programs are equipped to provide activities and stimulation -- including trips and outings -- that can help your loved one burn some energy without you or others turning to medication to calm her down.

5. Unexplained physical changes.  Your loved one may be losing weight because she forgets to eat or gaining weight because she forgets she's eaten and eats again. Hunched posture and moving slowly can be signs that she’s unsure of where she’s going.

6. Hygiene problems.  Body odor can provide one of the strongest clues that your loved one is losing the ability to care for herself. Look for other changes in appearance as well, such as unwashed or wrinkled clothes, or even putting clothes on backwards or inside out.

7. Money issues.  Losing track of financial matters is one of the first signs of dementia for many people. Look for unpaid bills, and check taxes and property taxes to make sure they've been paid. If possible, examine your parents' bank statements for signs of unusual activity.

8. Fraud.  If you notice that your loved one is making strange purchases, giving to new charities, or investing in questionable financial products, these can all indicate the onset of memory loss and other dementia-related issues.

9. Living conditions.  Whether your loved one lives independently or in senior living, check her physical environment for burn and scorch marks and other signs of damage that can provide important clues to her mental state. Look for stains, mold, and other signs of water damage as well, and even spills that haven't been wiped up.

10. Unnecessary purchases or hoarding.  Is your loved one's coffee table covered with untouched magazines, her bathroom shelves stacked with bars of soap, her freezer full of unopened frozen meals? Repeatedly purchasing multiples of the same item is often an early sign that someone's mental faculties are declining. An unwillingness to throw things away ("But I might need that in the future") can also be a sign that someone's grip on reality is fading. If your loved one is showing signs of hoarding, that's an even more serious warning to seek a safer living situation.

For more information on dementia care, see www.caregiver.com.

About South Mountain Memory Care

South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand new building is a standalone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff and programs are designed to cater to residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites.

South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey and Philadelphia. For more information, go to http://www.southmountainmemorycare.com/

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