Something Seems Wrong With Mom/Dad By Dean Benson

Something Seems Wrong With Mom/Dad 								      	By Dean Benson
Photo by Danie Franco / Unsplash

Table of Contents:

Providing Support and Care

Seeking Professional Help

How to Approach the Conversation

Early Signs and Symptoms

Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia

Chapter 1: Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia


Hey there! If you're reading this, chances are you have some concerns about a loved one. Maybe it's Mom who seems a bit off, or Dad who’s been forgetting things more than usual. Don't worry, you're not alone. Many of us go through this, and it can be confusing and scary. Let's dive into understanding Alzheimer's and dementia.

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's is like the big bad wolf of brain diseases. It's a specific condition that messes with your brain cells, causing them to shrink and die. This process can lead to severe memory problems and changes in behavior. It’s named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first noticed the weird changes in the brain over a hundred years ago. Imagine your brain as a city, and Alzheimer's as a slow-moving hurricane tearing through it, causing more damage as it goes along.

What is Dementia?

Now, dementia is a bit different. Think of it as an umbrella term covering various conditions that impact your memory, thinking, and social abilities. It's like saying someone has a "fever" – there are many reasons why it could happen. Alzheimer’s is just the most common type of dementia. Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. Each of these has its own quirks and characteristics, but they all share that core issue of messing with your brain's ability to function properly.

Key Differences Between Alzheimer's and Dementia

Here’s an easy way to remember it: Alzheimer's is a type of dementia, but not all dementias are Alzheimer's. Dementia is like saying you have a car problem, while Alzheimer's is like saying your car engine is broken. Both are serious, but they’re not the same thing.

The Importance of Early Detection

Catching Alzheimer’s or dementia early can make a world of difference. It allows for better management of symptoms, gives you and your loved one more time to plan and adapt, and can even slow down the progression of the disease with the right treatments and lifestyle changes. Think of it like noticing the first crack in a dam – it’s much easier to manage before it becomes a full-blown flood.

Personal Anecdote

When my Mother started misplacing her keys more often, we brushed it off as normal aging. It wasn’t until she got lost driving to the post office – a route she’d taken for years – that we started to worry. That’s when we realized something more serious might be going on. If we had known the signs earlier, we might have acted sooner.

Chapter 2: Early Signs and Symptoms

Memory Loss

Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of spotting these signs. The first and most obvious sign is memory loss. We all forget things from time to time, but with Alzheimer’s, it’s more about forgetting recently learned information. Imagine asking the same question over and over because you can’t remember the answer you were just given. It's like having a faulty short-term memory card.

Difficulty in Planning or Solving Problems

If your loved one has always been the household accountant but suddenly starts messing up the checkbook or can’t follow a familiar recipe, that’s a red flag. It's like they’re struggling to solve a puzzle they’ve completed a thousand times before. Planning and problem-solving are some of the first skills to take a hit.

Confusion with Time or Place

Getting confused about dates, seasons, and the passage of time can be another sign. They might forget where they are or how they got there, which can be really scary. It's as if their internal GPS is going haywire.

Trouble Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships

Vision problems can also crop up. They might have trouble judging distance or distinguishing between colors, which makes driving particularly dangerous. It’s like their brain is sending mixed signals about what they’re seeing.

New Problems with Words in Speaking or Writing

Ever notice them stopping mid-conversation, unsure of how to continue? Or maybe they start calling everyday objects by the wrong names. This is another symptom. Communication becomes a game of charades, and not the fun kind.

Misplacing Things and Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps

Misplacing things in unusual places – like putting the remote in the fridge – is pretty common. What’s worse is when they can’t retrace their steps to find these items. It’s like they’re on a treasure hunt with no map.

Decreased or Poor Judgment

Making poor decisions, like giving away money to telemarketers or neglecting personal hygiene, can be another sign. Judgment and decision-making skills can take a real hit, making everyday choices much harder.

Withdrawal from Work or Social Activities

If they used to be the life of the party but now prefer to stay home, this could be a sign. Withdrawal from hobbies, social activities, and work projects can indicate that they’re struggling to keep up.

Changes in Mood and Personality

Mood swings, increased confusion, and suspicion can also appear. They might become depressed, fearful, anxious, or even paranoid. Imagine someone who’s always been upbeat suddenly becoming withdrawn and irritable.

Case Studies

Case Study 2: James observed his father's declining ability to manage his finances. His dad, once meticulous with bills and budgeting, began missing payments and making impulsive financial decisions, like investing in dubious schemes.

Case Study 1: Emily noticed her mother asking the same questions repeatedly and losing track of dates. Initially, she thought it was just old age, but the frequency and severity increased. One day, her mom forgot her way back home from the grocery store, a place she visited weekly.

Personal Anecdote

I remember when my friend Joe started withdrawing from our regular poker nights. Joe was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. But slowly, he began making excuses to skip out. Eventually, we learned that he was having trouble keeping track of the game and felt embarrassed. It was heartbreaking to see him isolate himself because of this.

Chapter 3: How to Approach the Conversation

Choosing the Right Time and Place

Talking about these concerns can be tough. It’s crucial to pick the right moment. Find a quiet, comfortable setting without distractions. Maybe a calm Sunday afternoon at home when you both have time to sit and talk.

Being Compassionate and Patient

This is a sensitive topic, so approach it with empathy and patience. Remember, this conversation might be as scary for them as it is for you. Be gentle, and give them time to process what you’re saying.

Using Gentle and Non-Threatening Language

Use simple, clear language. Avoid medical jargon or terms that might sound intimidating. Instead of saying “You might have dementia,” try saying “I’ve noticed you’ve been forgetting things more often. How do you feel about it?”

Listening Actively

Make sure to listen more than you speak. Allow them to express their feelings and concerns without interrupting or correcting them. This conversation is about understanding their experience, not just getting your point across.

Offering Reassurance and Support

Let them know you’re there for them no matter what. Reassure them that you’ll face whatever comes together and that there’s help available. It’s important they feel supported and not judged.

Encouraging Professional Help

Gently suggest seeing a doctor. Offer to help set up the appointment and go with them if they’re comfortable with that. Emphasize that it’s better to check things out early to manage whatever might be going on.

Personal Anecdote

When my Mother started showing signs of dementia, our family was unsure how to approach the topic. We chose a quiet evening to sit down with her. We started by sharing our own concerns and gently mentioned the changes we noticed. By expressing our love and support, she felt more comfortable opening up about his own fears and agreed to see a doctor.

Case Studies

Case Study 4: Mark, worried about his mother’s declining memory, approached her with empathy. He chose a quiet afternoon to talk, using simple and compassionate language. His patience and understanding helped his mother feel less defensive and more willing to discuss her symptoms.

Case Study 3: Sarah noticed her dad becoming increasingly forgetful and confused. One weekend morning, she made his favorite breakfast and gently brought up her concerns. By creating a relaxed environment, she was able to have a heartfelt conversation with him.

Chapter 4: Seeking Professional Help

When to See a Doctor

So, you’ve noticed some signs, had the tough conversation, and now you’re thinking about next steps. When should you see a doctor? If these symptoms are persistent and worsening, it’s time to consult a healthcare professional. Early intervention is key.

Types of Specialists

There are different types of doctors who can help:

Psychiatrists: Mental health specialists who can help with mood and behavior changes associated with dementia.

Geriatricians: These doctors specialize in older adults. They’re great at understanding the unique challenges that come with aging.

Neurologists: These are brain and nervous system experts. They’re like the detectives of the brain world, figuring out what’s going wrong.

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

There are several tests and procedures that doctors might use to diagnose dementia:

Laboratory Tests: These tests rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms, like vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems.

Brain Imaging: MRI or CT scans can help detect abnormalities in the brain. Think of it as taking a picture of the brain to see what’s going on inside.

Cognitive and Neuropsychological Tests: These tests assess memory, problem-solving skills, and other cognitive functions. It’s like a brain workout to see how well everything is functioning.

Treatment Options

While there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments that can help manage symptoms:

Therapies: Cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, and lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Staying mentally and physically active can help maintain cognitive functions.

Medications: Drugs like cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can help manage cognitive symptoms. They’re not a cure, but they can slow down the progression.

The Role of Clinical Trials

Participating in clinical trials can provide access to new treatments and contribute to medical research. It’s a way to help others while potentially finding a treatment that works better for your loved one.

Personal Anecdote

When we took my Mother to see a neurologist, the process felt overwhelming at first. But the doctor was patient, explaining each step and what to expect. The cognitive tests were like puzzles and games, which actually made my grandmother feel more at ease. It wasn’t easy, but knowing we were on the right track brought a sense of relief.

Case Studies

Case Study 6: Tom noticed changes in his father’s behavior and decision-making. After consulting with a geriatrician, they discovered his father had vascular dementia. With a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, they were able to improve his quality of life.

Case Study 5: Lisa’s mother began showing symptoms of memory loss and confusion. Lisa made an appointment with a neurologist, who conducted a series of cognitive tests and brain scans. The diagnosis was early-stage Alzheimer’s, and they started treatment immediately, which helped manage the symptoms.

Chapter 5: Providing Support and Care

Understanding the Emotional Impact

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be emotionally challenging. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and seek support when needed. This journey can be tough, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Creating a Safe Environment

Making the home safe is crucial. Remove tripping hazards, install locks on doors and windows, and ensure there’s plenty of lighting. Think of it as baby-proofing the house, but for an adult who needs a bit more help navigating their space.

Establishing Routines

Routines provide a sense of security and stability. Create a daily schedule that includes time for activities, meals, and rest. Consistency helps reduce confusion and anxiety.

Encouraging Social Engagement

Social interaction can help maintain cognitive function and improve mood. Encourage participation in social activities and hobbies. It’s important to keep them engaged and connected with friends and family.

Taking Care of Yourself

As a caregiver, it’s essential to take care of your own physical and mental health. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Seek support from friends, family, or caregiver support groups. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Utilizing Support Services

There are numerous support services available, including home care, respite care, and adult day programs. These resources can help manage the caregiving burden and give you some much-needed breaks.

Personal Anecdote

When we started noticing changes in my mother, my family and I sat down to create a plan. We made her home safer by installing handrails and better lighting. We established a daily routine that included her favorite activities, like gardening and knitting. It wasn’t always easy, but having a plan in place made a big difference.

Case Studies

Case Study 8: Mike balanced caregiving with his own self-care by seeking support from a local caregiver group. He also utilized respite care services to take breaks when needed. This approach helped him manage the emotional and physical demands of caregiving.

Case Study 7: Jane’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She made adjustments to his home to ensure safety, established a daily routine, and encouraged social activities. By providing a supportive environment, she helped her father maintain his quality of life.


Recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia in a loved one is a challenging yet crucial step. By understanding the symptoms, approaching the conversation with compassion, seeking professional help, and providing supportive care, you can make a significant difference in their quality of life. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Seek support, stay informed, and take care of yourself as you navigate this path with your loved one. 

This eBook provides a comprehensive guide to spotting early signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia, approaching the topic with loved ones, and offering the necessary support and care. If you need further assistance or have specific areas you’d like to expand on, feel free to let me know!

Dean Benson (