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Normal Aging Versus When to Seek Support Services

There is a popular and common misconception around what is normal aging versus what is a more advanced cognitive decline. I cannot tell you the number of times that I have heard family members tell me a line such as, “So-and-so’s memory is better than mine! He/she may not be able to tell me what they did today, but they can remember every detail of when they were young!”

As loved ones, we are often unable to clearly see the decline in those we love. They are our heroes, our protectors, and the strongest people we know. Unfortunately, our loved ones are going to rely on our ability to identify when support services such as neurologist appointments, hired caregivers, in-home therapy services, or downsizing assistance may be necessary. I went to an amazing seminar once by Dr. Rob Winningham regarding cognitive decline where a statement he made has stuck with me. He said that he himself had heard on a number of occasions something along the lines of: “Oh, mom/dad are fine. They are getting older, so we decided to take over managing their medications and finances. They worked so hard in life for us, so we eventually also took over the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry so that mom/dad can just enjoy the rest of their days.”

Did we do this to help, or are we doing this because we realize that mom/dad can no longer manage these activities on their own? There are actually support services to help in these areas, and they are designed to decrease caregiver burnout, promote independence, and enhance your loved one's quality of life.

The following are examples of normal aging:

· Changes in ability to multi-task

· Slowing of thinking speed

· Simple forgetfulness such as placement of keys or cell phone

· Delay or slowing in recall of dates, names or events

The following are examples of when to seek support services:

· Difficulty with remembering to take medications

· Difficulty with finances

· New onset of changes in behavior or mood

· Difficulty remembering appointments or events

· Getting lost going to familiar places

· Difficulty with word finding

· Forgetting familiar names and familiar places

· Difficulty with transition of environments

· Difficulty with keeping up with self-care/hygiene

· Repetition of statements

· Forgetting to eat meals

· Weight loss

· Frequent falls

· Refusing to bathe

· Refusing to accept assistance with care

If your loved one is demonstrating 2 or more of the above listed characteristics, it is recommended to make an appointment with a healthcare professional. Following a potential diagnosis, there are in-home outpatient services, such as The Memory Compass, available to assist you and your loved one with development of individualized compensatory strategies to enhance memory, education on environmental setup to promote safety as well as individualized cognitive stimulation activities. Unfortunately, this will not prevent the disease progression. However, support services will provide helpful strategies and tools to preserve meaningful interactions with your loved one, as well as promote dignity, independence and safety within their living environment, ultimately enhancing their quality of life.

By: Jessie Hillock, M. A., CCC-SLP

Owner of The Memory Compass LLC

A mobile private practice in Zionsville, Indiana and surrounding communities providing in-home outpatient Memory Therapy and Family Coaching to individuals and families coping with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other memory impairments.

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