[This is part two of a guest blog series on elder care written by Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com]
As many of our parents are living to be older than they or we expected, the adult children face issues that didn't exist a generation ago. One of the most serious is that many of our aging parents will experience memory loss, which often leads to dementia.
It may start out with forgetting that they told you a story and they then they repeat it a short time later. And then they repeat it all over again. Or they can't quite follow the conversation, or they get lost. These signs seem subtle at first, and you may dismiss them as "just getting old". Getting old does not normally mean that we lose our intelligence or that we suffer from persistent short term memory loss. The memory loss problem can be an early warning sign of cognitive decline. If you notice it, take it as something you need to watch for and to anticipate as a problem that could grow worse.
If you are noticing forgetfulness now, there are things you can do to prepare for the possible, if not likely fact that this could be a precursor to cognitive impairment in your aging loved one. Imagine it's your mother. Dementia risk is higher for women. Here is an important first step to take.
Discuss Mom's situation with all family members.
Call a family meeting. If your mother's memory problems progress, everyone in the family will eventually be involved in the situation. Siblings may need to share caregiving duties. Some may need to make financial contributions. Taking care of parents as they age is something we have to expect with increased longevity. An honest conversation about who can do what, and who is willing to help aging parents can go a long way toward avoiding resentment and conflict later on.
You don't want to be the one lulled into a false sense of security because no one has officially diagnosed your aging parent with dementia. The doctor may call it "mild cognitive impairment" (MCI), but the doctor doesn't tell you that MCI often follows a downward projection. It doesn't matter. Trust your own eyes and ears. If your gut tells you there's something wrong here with your loved one, there probably is something wrong.
You're not alone if you have a parent with memory loss. Millions of people are facing this every day. They find a way to manage it, and survive and you will too. Be smart. Look down the road. Stand tall and do this last part of being a grown child of your parent. Take the basic steps to protect your aging parent and yourself and you will get through it without unnecessary stress.
Learn what every adult child needs to know in The Family Guide To Aging Parents, available now at AgingParents.com. You'll find expert advice from us, a nurse-lawyer, psychologist team, to save you time and minimize your stress with aging loved ones.