Senior looking out window

The Cognitive Changes in Older Loved Ones You Should Watch for

Change, even when it’s minor, can be hard to accept, especially when it’s happening to those you care about. Parent’s age, their hair grays, their gait is a little less steady, and they probably admit they often can’t find their eyeglasses. But some things—like cognitive changes in older adults—can be red flags that call for close attention.

Cognitive changes in older adults to watch for:

Lack of awareness of date and time

Missing an appointment occasionally or temporarily forgetting what day it is rarely is a matter of concern. But if your loved one seems to be going through periods of time where their sense of reality is different from yours, it would be a good idea to investigate further as cognitive changes in older adults can be serious.

For example, Mom wants to “pick up the children” from school, or Dad frets that he’s late for a job he retired from years earlier. It’s important to know that a person may move in and out of this time-shifting throughout the course of a day.

Changes in personality

Cognitive changes in older adults can result in several forms of altered behavior such as feelings of sadness and confusion, irritation over too much noise or too many people talking at once, agitation over believing other people are hiding things from them, and more. It’s always wise to seek the opinion of your family’s physician to determine if a medical issue is to blame.

If it seems like lately your loved one just isn’t acting like themselves, don’t ignore it. Doing nothing can worsen things, particularly if you see early signs of agitation or aggression.

Difficulty using appliances

Particularly in the kitchen, this warning sign can lead to dangerous consequences. Leaving the oven on, burning a hand on the stovetop, suffering a bad cut while trying to chop vegetables…struggling with cooking and safe use of appliances can signal cognitive changes in older adults.

If you are not sure if your loved one needs more assistance with safely preparing meals, ask yourself a few questions: do they struggle with following a recipe? Do they leave out important steps or ingredients? Are you finding spoiled foods that should have been thrown out? Does it seem they are unable to accurately calculate cooking time?

Another consideration is to be sure your loved one has not stopped cooking once and for all, and thus is not eating regular meals and getting necessary nutrition. Not eating or staying hydrated are among the cognitive changes in older adults that merit quick attention.

Inability to manage finances

With some of the cognitive changes in older adults, it can feel like things are suddenly different. But when it comes to paying bills, handling money, and organizing finances, the problems often begin years before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia. When you visit your loved one, look for stacks of unpaid bills. Missed credit card payments, or only paying the minimum charge each billing cycle. Pay attention if they say they “overlooked” paying for the utilities, rent, or other important regular services.

In addition, many seniors in the easy stage of mild cognitive impairment unfortunately become easy targets for scams—on the phone, online, in the mail, and even at the front door. If there seems to be irregularities in spending that suggest a scam has occurred, take action at once.

When it’s time to consider a safer, more supportive lifestyle

If any of the warning signals mentioned here sound familiar, it could be time to consider a lifestyle that’s safe, comfortable, and focused on senior wellness. And it’s understandable if your Mom or Dad resists the idea of making such a change. Let them know you only have their best interests at heart, and that a more supportive environment, that’s free of any maintenance worries, might open up a whole new world of possibilities for them.

At The Herrick House, we understand the needs of our residents—the desire to remain close to family and friends, to the neighborhoods where they lived and worked, to the things that are most familiar. We offer Assisted Living, Spectrum Memory Care, and Respite Stays. Our community is set apart from other assisted living communities by our variety of nursing and health care coordination services, which include a minimum of one licensed nurse in the facility 24 hours a day.

Making a major life transition can oftentimes be challenging. But the path to change can be made a lot smoother when you have a trusted advisor on your side. We are here for you.

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