Alzheimer’s/Dementia is a disease that comes about gradually and the signs can be easy to miss or understand. Making the decision to move a loved one into a Memory Care Community, like Alcoeur Gardens, can be a difficult one - both emotionally and practically. Although every situation is different, looking at the following 9 signs will give you valuable information to help make that decision.
1. The Big Red Flags
a. Has wandered away from the home and can’t find their way back
b. Has had several recent falls.
c. Has had a car accident or a close call with a car. Check for dents. Do they tailgate or drive way below the speed limit?
d. Has had a slow recovery from a recent illness, like the flu or bad cold? Was he/she able or willing to seek medical attention.
e. Has a chronic health condition that's worsening. Progressive problems such as COPD, dementia, and congestive heart failure can decline gradually or suddenly, but either way, their presence means your loved one will need increasingly more help.
f. Has increasing difficulty managing their activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, eating, grooming).
2. Up-close signs that it might be time for a Memory Care Community
Give your loved one a big hug. Clues aren't always visible from a distance; especially when you don't see the person every day, you might learn more through touch.
**Noticeable weight loss. Does the person feel thinner? Are clothes loose, or has he added notches to his belt? Is there food in the refrigerator? They may be having trouble shopping for food or they aren’t remembering to eat.
**Seeming more frail. Do you feel anything "different" about the person's strength and stature when you hug? Can your loved one get out of the chair or off the couch easily? Does she or he seem unsteady when they walk or a little off balance? Compare these observations to the last time you were together.
**Noticeable weight gain. Common causes include an injury slowing the person down, diabetes, and dementia (when someone doesn't remember eating, he or she may indulge in meals and snacks all day long).
**Strange body odor. Unfortunately, a close hug can also reveal changes in personal hygiene habits. Not bathing and changing clothes, both contribute to this.
**Changes in appearance. Does the person's hair and makeup look all right? A formerly clean-shaven man with an unkempt beard may be forgetting to shave (or forgetting how to shave). Other changes may include unwashed or wrinkled clothes, or even putting clothes on backwards or inside out.
**Post It notes everywhere. As your loved one begins to lose their memory, they use post-it notes as reminders. At times you might find them all over the house, the kitchen, bathroom and/or bedroom.
3. Social signs it might be time for a Memory Care Community
**Signs of active friendships. Does your loved one still get together with friends or participate in religious activities or other group events? Isolation is a condition that leads to depression. If friends have died or moved away, moving to a place where other people are around could be lifesaving.
**Signs that your loved one has cut back on activities and interests. Has a hobby been abandoned? Has a club membership been given up? A library card gone unused? There are many reasons people cut back but showing interest in almost nothing is a red flag for depression. Memory Care Community programs are designed to provide activities and stimulation.
**A plan for a worst-case scenario. If there's a fire, earthquake, flood, or other disaster, is someone on standby to assist? Does your loved one understand the plan?
4. Money signs it might be time for a Memory Care Community
**Riffle through the mail. Your loved one's mail can offer an often-overlooked clue to how he or she is managing money, a common early warning sign of cognitive trouble. Finding mail scattered everywhere and unopened is a sign that they are having trouble managing their finances.
**Thank-you messages from charities. Older adults are often vulnerable to scammers. Often, charities will approach seniors repeatedly because they forget they have already donated. Having trouble with thinking skills makes them easy targets for scammers and unscrupulous salespeople.
5. Kitchen signs it might be time for a Memory Care Community
**Stale or expired foods. Look for signs that food is not only old but that this is unnoticed -- mold, sour milk that's still used, or expiration dates well past due.
**Multiples of the same item. Twelve jars of mayonnaise? More bags of flour than can be used in a year? Multiples often reveal that the shopper can't remember from one store trip to the next what's in stock at home.
**Broken appliances. Check them all: microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, washer, and dryer -- any device you know your loved one uses (or used to use) routinely.
**Signs of fire. Are stove knobs charred or melted? Pot bottoms singed badly (or thrown out)? Do any potholders have burned edges? Is there smoke on the wall behind the stove? Have smoke detectors been disassembled, or boxes of baking soda near the stove. Accidental fires are a common home danger for older adults.
6. Around-the-house signs that it might be time for Memory Care
**Clutter. Hoarding a sign of a neurological or physical issue. Papers or pet toys all over the floor represent a tripping hazard.
**Signs of poor housekeeping. Not cleaning up spills, is a common sign of dementia -- the person lacks the follow-through to tidy up their home. Keep an eye out for cobwebs, bathroom mold, bathroom grime and clutter, thick dust, scorch marks on bedding and furniture,(if your loved one smokes) or other signs of slackness.
**Medication Management. When someone has memory loss, one of the first things to go out the window is failing to take prescribed medications on schedule, whether it is missing medication times or taking the medications too often.
7. Pet-care and plant-care signs that indicate it might be time for a Memory Care Community
**Be sure to check out how the other living things are fairing. An ability to take care of pets and plants goes along with self-care. Are plants being neglected, are there dead fish in the fish tank, are the dog’s nails too long, or has the cat’s litter box been neglected for too long?
8. Home-maintenance signs it might be time for a Memory Care Community
**Walk around the yard. Is the yard being maintained?
**Signs of neglect. Look for discolored siding or ceilings that might indicate a leak, gutters choked with leaves, broken windows or fences. Are newspapers being delivered but ignored? Is there mail piled up in the mailbox?
9. Caregiver’s signs it might be time for a Memory Care Community
**How are you doing. While the decision to remain in one's home is primarily about your loved one, your own exhaustion can be a good gauge of a decline in an older adults' ability to care for themselves. Caregiver burnout is a very real problem because over time, your mental and physical health will suffer and you will have a dual problem to resolve. Dealing with irrational demands and being yelled at is stressful for family caregivers, while memory care professionals have the training and patience for handling these situations.
Your loved one's emotional state. Safety is crucial, of course, but so is emotional well-being. If someone living alone is riddled with anxieties or increasingly lonely, then that may tip the scales toward a move not solely based on health and safety reasons.