Occasional forgetfulness happens to all of us, no matter our age. However, when you or your aging loved one gets older, you might wonder when occasional forgetfulness crosses into potentially more worrisome conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Thanks to early awareness, family members can notice signs of cognitive decline long before any major crisis or safety emergency occurs.
But what can you look for that might indicate cognitive decline or the early stages of dementia? Here are a few signs of cognitive decline that could warrant a follow-up appointment with a physician.
If you or your loved one has always been disorganized, you might not be able to tell if they are suddenly unable to keep track of bills or appointments. However, if your loved one has never been late to a family gathering and always paid their bills on time and now their desk and countertops look disheveled and disorganized, this could be a sign of cognitive decline.
Isolation or Being Alone More Than Usual
When adults begin to experience cognitive decline, they can choose to limit their social interactions out of embarrassment, shame or anxiety. This can cause them to decline invitations and isolate themselves more than usual. If your loved one is suddenly skipping family gatherings or outings with friends, it could be a sign something else is going on.
Word Finding Difficulty
While forgetting a word or name sometimes is not necessarily a sign of cognitive decline, if it is happening often enough to disrupt daily life or cause increased bouts of agitation or frustration, it could be. If you notice your loved one struggling to find the names of common objects or people, speak about it with their physician.
Decreased Short-Term Memory
Cognitive decline affects short-term memory first. This means that someone with cognitive decline may struggle to remember multi-step directions or information they just heard. If you are noticing this in your loved one, it could be a sign of dementia.
Shortened Attention Span
Cognitive decline can often show up in the form of overstimulation, difficulty concentrating or a shortened attention span. Each of these examples shows the dementia brain’s inability to process a lot of information at once. If you notice your loved one is having problems concentrating or keeping their attention focused, it could be a sign of cognitive decline.
What to Do
If you are worried about your loved one, first determine if what you are noticing is affecting their daily life. If it is, then it is time to make an appointment to discuss your observations with a physician. Remember, an early diagnosis can allow your loved one to receive the support they need to feel their best for as long as possible and to stay as safe and socially engaged as possible.