How Can I Plan for the Cognitive Decline of a Loved One?

Your primary care doctor can help you plan for a loved one's cognitive decline.

It’s difficult to plan for a loved one’s memory disorder. Cognitive decline occurs gradually, and the signs/symptoms appear slowly and are often written off as a normal part of aging.

Becoming forgetful is a major red flag for mild cognitive impairment (MCI). But forgetfulness also could be the result of depression, stress or a lack of sleep. Still, it’s important to share this information with your loved one’s doctor, as well as if they:   

  • Get confused easily
  • Have difficulty learning and/or remembering new skills or information 
  • Have difficulty concentrating 
  • Lose track of time
  • Misplace things
  • Is having trouble managing money
  • Has personality or behavioral changes, i.e., getting easily irritated or deviating from routines 

There are more severe signs, including if your loved one:

  • Has difficulties performing daily tasks 
  • Should not be left alone to perform complex tasks
  • Repeatedly asks for and/or says the same information
  • Forgets significant life events and dates
  • Struggles to find the right words and follow a conversation
  • Gets lost when visiting familiar locations 
  • Is prone to wandering
  • Has lost interest in social activities and hobbies
  • No longer pays attention to hygiene and grooming
  • No longer recognizes familiar objects or their reflection in a mirror

If your loved one has an MCI, the condition will progress. They may eventually require help help to ensure they bathe, groom, dress, eat, take their medications, run errands and get to doctors’ appointments. That help could be a family member who chooses to dedicate their time to helping their loved one. You may need to hire a home health professional to take care of your loved one. Or your loved one may need to move into an assisted living facility.

Regardless of the path you chose, it will be a lot easier emotionally and financially if it’s planned in advance. That’s why it might be a good idea to discuss MCI with an aging loved one and a professional, like their primary care doctor. They can help prepare your family for the stages your loved one will go through, how medications will affect them and how to manage their other conditions. 

And of course, you need to emotionally prepare yourself for a loved one’s decline. And not just their physical needs and potential for constant 24/7 care, but also the devastating effects it will have on your own emotional wellbeing. Do this by talking to your doctor. A doctor who knows you well can provide support, appropriate recommendations and/or referrals for you and your family members.

Don’t have a doctor? Consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP-affiliated doctors have the time and resources to get to know their patients well, develop personalized wellness programs and refer to leading specialists. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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