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Early Signs of Dementia in Parents and What to Do When You Suspect Dementia

elderly man holding a child

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


January 31st, 2021

I think my mother has dementia what should I do?” is a very common phrase for adult children with aging parents. It’s normal to worry about the health of your aging parents, especially if you feel like you’re seeing early signs of dementia in your parents.

Watching someone lose their ability to think clearly or remember things can be devastating, leaving adult children unsure of how to help those who once cared for them.

As with many illnesses, the earlier you identify dementia, the better chance your parent will have of living a longer and more fulfilling life. The sooner you notice signs, the sooner treatment can begin.

If you’ve been wondering:

  • How do I know if my mom has dementia?
  • What are the signs of dementia in elderly parents
  • How to tell if a parent has dementia
  • What to do when you suspect dementia
  • How to get evaluated for dementia

We have the answers you need. This article will help you spot the early signs of dementia and share tips on how to talk to aging parents about memory loss.


What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a broad term for any brain disease that causes a decline in mental ability. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Some of the most common symptoms of dementia are:

  • Disorientation
  • Mood changes
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired judgment

In addition, there are different types of dementia:

So, you may be asking, how do I know if my mom has dementia? Let’s review the most common signs of dementia in elderly parents


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Early Signs Of Dementia In Parents

Every person experiences the symptoms of dementia differently; however, certain patterns may indicate dementia. 

Here are a few early signs of dementia in aging parents to be on the lookout for.


1. Unexplained Memory Loss

Unexplained memory loss is often the earliest sign that something is wrong.

You might notice your parents suddenly forgetting where their keys are or what they went upstairs to get. They might be unable to remember friends’ names or appointments and get lost in familiar places.


2. Confusion With Time Or Place

Losing track of time or the day is another common early sign of dementia in elderly parents.

Many people with dementia become confused about what time it is. For example, they may think that it’s still morning when it’s afternoon. Some may also forget where they are, even in familiar places.


3. Unable To Follow A Set of Steps

The early signs of dementia in parents often include being unable to follow a series of steps, such as following a recipe or folding laundry.

As dementia progresses, it may be challenging for your parents to complete everyday activities that were once second nature. Skipping steps or forgetting how to do a common task is a key behavior indicator to watch for when wondering, “Does my mother have dementia?”


4. Loss of Ability To Perform Complex Tasks

People with dementia may have difficulty performing complex tasks such as managing their finances or doing two things simultaneously, like having a conversation over mealtime. Your loved one might also have trouble with movement and balance.


5. Misplacing Things

People with dementia may forget where they put important items, such as their keys or wallets. They may also have trouble keeping track of items when they’re in plain sight.


6. Irrational Fears, Paranoia, and Worries

Anxiety and paranoia are common signs of early dementia. You might notice your parents becoming fixated on certain thoughts, such as believing someone is following them or taking things from them.


7. Mental Confusion

People with dementia can quickly become confused, lost in familiar situations, or find it challenging to navigate short distances. They may also:

  • Ask the same questions repeatedly
  • Have trouble following conversations
  • Experience difficulty performing familiar tasks. 

Mental confusion is also a symptom of other serious conditions, so if the onset is rapid and significant, you’ll want to contact your parents’ doctor right away.


8. Agitation or Aggression

Mood changes are common early signs of dementia. People with Alzheimer’s may become frustrated or agitated at their diminished capabilities as the disease progresses.

There’s also a condition called “sundowning” where individuals with dementia can experience great agitation at the end of the day.

Now that you know how to tell if a parent has dementia, let’s talk about what to do when you suspect dementia in one of your parents.


“I Think My Mother Has Dementia. What Should I Do?”

If you’re looking for advice about what to do when you suspect dementia and how to get a parent tested for dementia, know there are a few routes you can take. As we mentioned earlier, being proactive is key to managing the symptoms and helping your parents live the best life possible.


1. See a Doctor For An Evaluation

Fortunately, there are tests that can indicate the presence of dementia. When you see a parent struggling to remember or having difficulty performing tasks that were once easy, schedule a visit with a doctor or a memory care provider.

A doctor will know how to get a parent tested for dementia and provide guidance on how to talk to aging parents about memory loss.


2. Help Parents Keep Track Of Tasks

If your parent has trouble keeping track of items or following a series of steps, you can help them keep a calendar with all their daily activities, appointments, and deadlines.

It can also be helpful to create a list of steps for them to follow when you give them tasks to complete.


3. Focus On Solving Issues Together

People with early signs of dementia may feel embarrassed or overwhelmed when they can’t perform complex tasks or things that once came naturally.

When you see your parents having trouble completing everyday activities, consider sitting down with them and helping them solve the problem together.

This may be as simple as assisting them in crossing items off a to-do list or reminding them how to perform a task they’re struggling with. Stay patient, calm, and positive. Words of encouragement can go a long way.


4. Create Space for Community

Though you may not realize it, there are many people across the country, and even in your own local area, thinking, “My mom has dementia and I don’t know what to do!”

With many parents and caregivers navigating memory loss, building a community for yourself is key to finding support. These supports groups can provide encouragement and inspiration during times of great distress or unknown.


5. Hire a Professional Caregiver

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Finding a compassionate professional caregiver can ease the burden of family caregiving, especially when a parent exhibits signs of dementia and memory loss. 

Whether your parent needs daily assistance or 24-hour dementia care, specially trained caregivers will:

  • Provide an extra set of hands
  • Enhance safety and security
  • Give peace of mind
  • Help keep parents comfortable at home for as long as possible

Hiring an in-home caregiver for your loved done is also a great way to take some of the caregiving burdens off your shoulders.


Dementia in Elderly Parents: Find Hope for Memory Care at Commonwise

Knowing how to tell if a parent has dementia can give you the confidence to approach the symptoms with strength and knowledge. If you’ve been saying, “I think my mother has dementia what should I do?” look for these tell-tale signs:

  • Unexplained memory loss
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Difficulty following a set of steps
  • Inability to perform complex tasks
  • Misplacing things
  • Irrational fears, paranoia, and worries
  • Mental confusion
  • Agitation or aggression

At Commonwise, we want to encourage you with wisdom and compassion as you support your loved one with age-related memory loss. So, we offer reliable in-home care for elderly loved ones as they age. Our professional caregivers in Virginia and Charleston will help your parents age in place and support you through the process of dealing with dementia in elderly parents.

If you’re ready to give your parents the compassionate care they deserve, contact our team today to schedule a consultation.

In-home elder care solutions in Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, VA and Charleston, SC.

Contact us for a free assessment