One of the most difficult things to face in life is when you realize that a parent is not able to function normally due to confusion and memory loss. While it can be disheartening to you that they cannot remember the simplest things, like their favorite nickname for you when you were a child, it can be downright terrifying when they don't remember when—or if—they last took a dosage of their prescription medication. Here's what you need to consider if your parent is showing signs of dementia.
Getting Cognitive Testing
It's important for your parent to get tested to determine whether their cognitive function is impaired or not. This testing involves a series of questions and tests that can be given by their general care practitioner. If the results show cause for concern, your parent will be referred to a neurologist for further testing. Testing is important because sometimes people try to hide or deny that they are having memory problems, or they may not even realize that there is a problem. The test results will also give a baseline that can be referred back to in the future, and that is important because dementia does tend to worsen over time.
Making the Decision
Typically, when someone is showing signs of dementia, their doctors will suggest that it may not be safe for the patient to live alone any longer. In severe cases, a patient with dementia should not be left alone for any substantial length of time, especially when there are dangerous objects or opportunities around, such as the ability for the patient to leave the house and wander through the neighborhood. And since dementia tends to worsen, it's a good idea to consider your parent's living arrangements.
Changing Their Living Arrangements
As with many people in your parents' generation, your parent may not want to give up their independence completely, and that is why assisted-living facilities are ideal. The staff can bring your parent's medication to them as scheduled. That way, you won't have to worry about whether or not they accidentally overdose due to taking their next dose too soon.
The staff at an assisted-living facility will be able to recognize if or when your parent is no longer able to perform daily activities of living, such as taking a bath and feeding themselves. At that point, it will be important to get another cognitive test done to compare against the baseline test to see whether the dementia has worsened.