Tips for helping parents deal with early signs of dementia
Whether a medical diagnosis has been completed or not, short-term memory loss has inherent risks.
In working with many families, the main risks we have experienced at Arcadia Home Care are poisoning by taking medications incorrectly, fire, and wandering.
A senior may take medication incorrectly because she forgets which day or time it is. She ends up taking pills randomly because she knows she has to take the medication. For example, we recently started serving a client who had tried to compensate by writing down when and what meds she had taken, but subsequently started misplacing her medication log. In another case, a senior had smartly ordered blister packs but lost track of the date/time indicated on the pack. (You may want to talk to your senior’s pharmacist about preparing such blister packs. The drugstore can pre-package all meds to be taken on a given day, sorted by time of day and so on.)
Fire is another serious issue. Pots left on a stove or in the oven, forgotten due to a phone call or a TV show, have sadly destroyed homes and even claimed lives. Here is one telltale sign of a senior feeling insecure in the kitchen: she has typically cooked meals most days, but suddenly starts to order in daily, or worse, ends up taking only tea and toast.
Until more permanent solutions can be found, you may wish to remove fuses from the stove, remove a toaster oven, get an auto-shut off kettle that will not boil dry, get a loud timer, and test all fire alarms. You can buy a microwave so your parent can defrost commercial meals or heat the food you may bring along.
Last but not least, wandering is a serious risk, especially where cold or hot weather exposure is prevalent. Look for a wandering registry via the Internet for your area. As technology improves, and if the senior is at real risk, it may be worthwhile investigating GPS tracking strategies. (You may feel there is an ethical issue here, but that is for you to wrestle with as nothing I write here will make the decision for you.)
In all these situations, I urge you to contact to get a professional risk assessment completed. Here are some resources for you to start the process.