We all forget our keys in different places. We sometimes cannot find our phones and perhaps even forgot an old acquaintances name. We all have mood swings and lose interest in different things at various stages of our life.
However, when does the forgetfulness begin to be actual memory loss? When do the mood swings need to be investigated further? When should you begin to worry and go get checked out?
These are common questions partners have when noticing the gradual but slight changes in their loved one.
When we are young adults we are so busy trying to get through the busy days of work life balance. We often have various commitments such as work, caring for children, trying to see our siblings and making time to socialise with friends.
We no longer remember phone numbers because our smart phones do that for us. We have electronic diaries to make sure that we are organised and on time to various meetings and appointments. GPS’s tell us how to get from point A to Point B. We constantly check Facebook and other forms of social media. We reply to emails while watching TV and speak on what’s app or other instant messaging devices. We are stimulated all the time and we are constantly overloaded with information.
In today’s society, it would not come as a surprise to you, when your partner may forget an arrangement, or if they forget to call you back or forget to pickup dinner or milk on the way home from work…
However, what if you noticed that your partner couldn’t find their car after a meeting?
Or perhaps your loved one forgot to celebrate a monumental date like a birthday or anniversary? What if they asked you the same question consecutively without even noticing?
At first you may brush it off by saying that it is stress or exhaustion. You may find yourself making excuses for them.You may justify in your mind that they are really busy, over -worked or that you need a holiday.
For some the changes may appear gradually… they may have been a talented cook… you may begin to notice their cooking changes… over spiced or under spiced? Perhaps they even begin to burn the food. Eventually, they gradually lose interest in cooking completely. The difficulty of completing familiar tasks become increasingly challenging.
You may notice that your partner begins to confuse the time of day and places. For example when you say to them “We need to be ready to go out at 6:00pm in the evening.” At 6:00pm you may find them pottering around without a worry or a clear understanding as to why you are getting so angry that they are not ready at the time you specified.
Word searching is a tricky one, we often find ourselves saying “oh its on the tip of my tongue” you will notice that it takes longer and longer for your partner to find the word they are looking for…
Over time you will find yourself getting more and more frustrated with the constant ‘slip ups’. You may find yourself over compensating in conversations and rationalising to yourself and others why these things are happening.
Where you should start…
It is crucial that you reach out for help. A good starting point is a visit to the GP, depending on their experience and skill of working with people with dementia. They will refer you to a Psych. geriatrician or Neurologist who will send your partner for further cognitive testing. It is important to accompany your loved one to these assessments.
A diagnosis of dementia is important in order to ensure adequate support is in place for the person.
First and for most dealing with the changes and diagnosis from an emotional stand point is very important. Grief counselling is an important avenue to explore the emotional change and journey for the person living with dementia as well as the family.
Exploring the opportunities of rehabilitation, whether speech pathology, occupational therapy and even physiotherapy can assist the person to adapt to the new way of living and develop various strategies.
Ensure that legal documents such as power of attorney and enduring guardian are signed so that they are easily accessible for the future.
Talk to your loved one, whom, has just been diagnosed to validate how they feel and what they are going through and share your fears, concerns and hopes for the future together.
Dementia Australia have great fact sheets on Dementia or Aged Care Report Cards Dementia Help Sheet –What is dementia?