As your loved ones grow older, you may find yourself wondering if the “normal” signs of aging could indicate something more serious, such as dementia. And if they do, what are you supposed to do about it?
The first step is determining if your loved one’s symptoms are truly cause for concern. To do so, it is essential to understand what dementia is and is not.
What Dementia Is
Dementia has many causes and comes in a variety of forms. It presents itself as a collection of symptoms that on their own are likely nothing to worry about. However, when combined, these symptoms may result in a mental decline that is severe enough to interfere with daily life and activities.
Some signs and symptoms of dementia may include difficulty managing daily affairs such as bill paying, basic hygiene, preparing meals, following directions or remembering the names of long-time family or friends.
What Dementia Is Not
Dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. It is a specific change in mental acuity resulting in a decline in reasoning, decision making and other daily skills.
Unfortunately, dementia is often mistaken for other things with more benign causation. For example, forgetting where you left your keys or glasses can be frustrating, but is not in itself a sign of dementia or declining mental ability.
However, if forgetfulness increases in severity or frequency, it might be time to visit a healthcare professional to learn more. There is currently no definitive test for dementia, but your doctor can use screening tools to determine the gravity of the cognitive decline and make recommendations based on his or her observations and consultation with the patient.
Understanding the Longevity of Dementia
Not all types of dementia are long-term. Some types of dementia are caused by short-term conditions, such as vitamin deficiencies, urinary tract infections, reactions to certain medications or excessive alcohol use. One of the most common causes of short-term dementia is a response to general anesthesia after undergoing a medical procedure. These symptoms are typically temporary in nature and can be resolved through proper medical attention.
Other forms of dementia are long-term. One of the most well-known and common types of long-term dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for as much as 80% of all dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease that causes damage to brain cells which gets worse over time. It typically presents itself after age 65, though certain forms can develop earlier. There are several indicators of Alzheimer’s which may include increased confusion and memory loss, loss of speech or motor functions such as walking or swallowing, and even behavior and personality changes. The symptoms can be subtle at first and may not seem to be cause for alarm. However, it is important to pay attention to these signs and address your concerns with a medical professional early on.
Supporting a Loved One with Dementia
Many patients who experience changes in their cognitive abilities fear losing control over their personal affairs.
Because of this, your once open loved one may begin hiding his or her actions and becoming secretive about things like finances. The best thing to do in these cases is to let your loved one know you are there to help through this difficult season of life.
Sometimes bringing in a trusted advisor such as a minister, attorney, financial professional or physician can help prepare your loved one for changes that may occur.
At Warren Averett Asset Management, we strive to help clients in these situations regain a sense of security through comprehensive financial planning and estate document management. Establishing a financial plan that includes short-term and long-term budget guidance can be a helpful way to ease anxiety about what the future holds for clients with this disease.
Additionally, there may be legal considerations to plan for if your loved one is no longer able to handle his or her personal affairs. We help facilitate honest and respectful conversations to assist your loved one’s with their goals and to ease the fears of what may lie ahead.
While there is no current cure, there are many resources that can help you and your loved one for life with dementia. Leaning on local resources such as support groups for both you and your loved one or assistance with in-home care can be incredibly beneficial.
Eventually, it may become necessary to find a new environment that is safe and secure; senior placement service professionals can help find the right place for your loved one.
Lastly, keeping legal documents such as wills and health care directives up to date, reviewing financial assets and regularly attending doctor’s visits can help mitigate some of the stress of this diagnosis.
Remember, no matter what the circumstances, you do not have to go through this alone, and the Women’s Wealth Connection at Warren Averett is here to support you and your loved one however we can.
You should not assume that any information provided serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Warren Averett. This information should be used as a reference only. Talk to your Warren Averett advisor, or a professional advisor of your choosing, for guidance specific to your situation.