How to Respond to “Senior Moments”

September 29, 2014
Senior Moments Dementia

Memory Lapses May or May Not Predict Dementia

No one is a bit surprised when a dear elderly relative forgets where she left her reading glasses. It’s perfectly understandable when a senior can’t recall the name of a distant relative who lives in another town at a family holiday gathering. There are other times, however, when a memory lapse sends up red flags in the minds of family members—having a hard time saying the name of a son or daughter, for example, or repeating a story that was told just a few minutes ago. We don’t want to overreact in response to a loved one’s “senior moments,” but we also don’t want to ignore signals that dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is on the way. This is particularly important in light of recent research that indicates such warning signs can show up when it is still possible to slow the rate of cognitive decline with intervention.

Open Communication about Memory

In the fast pace of modern life, an adult child of a senior can’t be expected to closely monitor his conversation, analyzing the number of memory lapses and determining whether they are serious enough to worry about early onset dementia. There are often multiple family members popping in and out throughout the day, not to mention in-home caregivers. Thus five different people may dismiss one or two “senior moments” in a day, not realizing just how often the senior is forgetting simple things.

This scenario doesn’t even take into account the times that a senior may have a forgetful moment with no one else around. Unless the senior takes the initiative to admit such moments to family members, they may go quite a while without realizing the extent of the problem.

Involve the Doctor

It’s important for family members and the senior himself to openly talk about memory lapses, especially with the family doctor. His training and personal knowledge of the senior patient allows him to give an informed opinion about whether the rate of forgetfulness is normal for his age or warrants further investigation. If the conversation leads to a diagnosis of early dementia or Alzheimer’s, treatment could delay more serious effects by a significant amount of time.

Don’t Forget the Important Things

Whether your senior loved one is in the very first, middle, or last stages of cognitive decline, there are some things that never change. Expressions of love, patience, and compassion by family are even more important when a senior’s memories and even his personality begin to decay. Physical safety requires additional attention, possibly requiring round-the-clock supervision by a professional or family caregiver. An expert in geriatrics may also be able to help your family learn how to best serve your senior loved one during this difficult stage of life.

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