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Sudden and significant memory loss is not a normal part of the aging process. Symptoms of cognitive decline often occur as part of a gradual process. When a loved one experiences memory loss, it can greatly affect our attitude and personal connection to them, as well as the overall priorities in our lives. That is why it is so important to recognize the symptoms of cognitive decline early to help manage and even slow the process, but also to help us, as caregivers, plan and cope. Here are the five most common signs of cognitive decline to be aware of when visiting or caring for a senior loved one.
  1. Memory loss. Frequent hesitation in finding words or using word substitutions can indicate the first stages of memory loss. If the person is asking for the same information repeatedly, this could be another sign of memory loss.
  2. Lack of recognition. Becoming lost in a well-known area or taking a long period of time to arrive home could indicate forgetfulness. However, memory loss can begin to interfere with daily living If a person becomes disoriented even when at home or is confused by familiar people.
  3. Social skills. Signs of concern include losing the ability to recall recent social experiences or to communicate, either orally or in writing. You may also notice a decline in personal hygiene.
  4. Behavioral changes. This may include changes in attitude, mood or behavior that are out-of-character or inconsistent with their typical personality. For example, if the person exhibits paranoia and accuses others of stealing lost items, this could be a sign of cognitive decline.
  5. Disorientation to time and place. If a loved one cannot recognize the date or time of the day, or is unable to recall significant dates or events, they may be experiencing symptoms of cognitive decline.
If you recognize any of these five signs in a loved one, it is important to consult your primary physician for further evaluation. Recognizing cognitive decline early is important so that you can help delay further symptoms of cognitive decline and prepare for long-term care. Check out our blog for more tips on cognitive long-term care planning, “Planning for a Future with Dementia” for more helpful information.
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