We all forget things now and then. Walk into a room and have no idea why we’re there. Can’t find the bill we just had in our hand. Search 10 minutes for glasses only to find them sitting squarely on our nose.
But looking at Mom, you’re starting to worry. Something seems off and you can’t help wondering.
Is her forgetfulness more than just the normal brain fog? Rather than simple brain hiccups, is she developing dementia? Alzheimer’s? Memory Loss?
Hard questions, especially when you find yourself screaming the answer that you want: No, No, No.
Yet if it’s true, getting early support can potentially help your mom slow down the process, not to mention keep her safe!
So what symptoms of memory loss do you need to be looking for?
Memory Loss Symptom #1: The Words Aren’t There like They Used to Be
Thoughts are funny things. They can slip from your mind or hide on the tip of your tongue no matter how old or young you are.
But does Mom use words incorrectly? Replace words with words that don’t make sense? Her sentences don’t fit together? Or she’s talking less and less, potentially because she wants to hide her confusion?
Maybe she tells the same story over and over in just a few minutes. Or asks you the same question that you’ve just answered six times.
No, she’s not getting back at you from when you were two years old and kept asking why.
Instead, her Loss of Communication Skills could be a sign of dementia.
Memory Loss Symptom #2: Time Has No Meaning
Our bodies are made to follow patterns, rhythms. Waking, sleeping, eating…. Of course, sometimes life gets in the way, and we adapt.
But sometimes your mother doesn’t make the adjustment.
When her structure or routine are jostled, you find her up at 3am, trying to make breakfast.
Or she climbs into pajamas and bed at 2pm—not because she’s taking a nap—but because she actually thinks it’s night.
Yes, there are days when we all suffer from insomnia or want to go to bed early.
But if this is a becoming more than a once in a while thing for Mom, she may be struggling with Time Imbalance.
Memory Loss maybe mixing up her internal clock.
Memory Loss Symptom #3: Your Easy-Going Mom Just Lambasted the Clerk
Again, sometimes every mother’s buttons get pushed one time too many, resulting in a Mount Vesuvius explosion. (As can be proven by the “Angry Eyebrows” portrait my young son drew of me. One of those “Mother of the Year—NOT!” moments. *Sigh*)
But sometimes you know it’s more than that. Mom seems like a different person all together. She’s irritated way more easily. Uses four letter words you would’ve sworn she didn’t even know!
Or just the opposite, she used to be pretty uptight, but now nothing phases her.
Things she always loved doing? She suddenly doesn’t care about.
Or she’s made a series of poor decisions.
None of us are perfect, and hopefully none of us are the same person we were in middle school, but with significant Personality Changes? if Mom isn’t acting like herself? It could be Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
Memory Loss Symptom #4: Elopement
Did you just get a picture of Mom running off to get married? Well, it has happened. Love doesn’t stop just because you’re past fifty.
But “elopement” in the case of senior care doesn’t have anything to do with weddings.
It means leaving, typically on purpose.
If Mom’s eloping, it’s frequently because she doesn’t recognize where she’s living as her home. When she thinks of home, she may remember her childhood house, not recognizing the place she’s lived in for the past 20 years as her home at all.
If the scenery hasn’t changed, it’s well-documented that people with Alzheimer’s can get where they want to go. You may very well find Mom back where she grew up.
Sometimes, though, Mom isn’t so much eloping as she is “wandering.”
She walks in her neighborhood and can’t get home. She walks around the house looking for something she can’t find—even though she can’t even remember what she’s looking for.
She may have an idea of where she wants to go, but because she gets confused, she gets lost.
This would be where those ‘Silver Alerts” come in. Like an “Amber Alert” for senior citizens.
If you’ve experienced it, you don’t need me to tell you—Both Elopement and Wandering can be scary!
And they are both frequently signs of Alzheimer’s or some other form of memory loss. Mom might need constant supervision like what you’d find at an Assisted Living specializing in memory care.
All These Memory Loss Symptoms: Does It Have to Be Alzheimer’s?
You’ve read through the symptoms. You found Mom fits at least one or two of them.
First, take heart. There are other Memory Loss causes that mimic symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia:
Medicine changes or drug interactions, vitamin deficiencies (specifically B-12), hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones), stress, depression over losing someone she loves, a hit to the head, and especially, bladder infections.
If it’s one of these copycat issues, your mom’s memory loss may be reversible. Her doctor can go through the possibilities with you, scheduling tests to properly diagnose her.
But before you walk into his office, you may want to make a list of changes you've noticed in Mom so you’re prepared for the visit.
And If It IS Alzheimer’s? Early Detection Is Your Best Ally
The earlier you get help for Mom, the earlier she can begin treatments. They’ll help her manage her symptoms and, again, possibly even slow them down.
Figuring it out early gives Mom involvement in talking about the future. Her care preferences. Her financial and legal situations. Her living arrangements. It gives her the chance to interview caregivers or tour Assisted Living specializing in memory care.
And it gives you the opportunity to appreciate the moments you have with Mom before it’s too late.
Letting her enjoy all the bouquets of Forget-me-nots you can gather.
(If you'd like to see other topics related to assisted living and caring for the elderly, click here.)
Guest post written by Elizabeth Daghfal
Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it—except for the fifteen months of winter. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry.
When she isn’t teaching or writing—who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she’s ALWAYS teaching and writing. But she also loves reading, singing, creating art, and just trying to stay ahead of the stories and research in her head. Read more about her at elizabethdaghfal.com.