Symptoms of Dementia
Easy to Recognize but
Difficult to Accept
in our Aging Parents

Coping with the symptoms of dementia can be difficult, especially since they vary as widely as they do. For some, just learning about the different presentations has helped them to understand this puzzling and dreaded condition.

Dementia can affect various parts of the brain, each in a different way. You may first notice a number of things with your aging parent.

  • They may be unable to remember recent things.

  • Or they may not recognize people and places they used to know.

  • They may not be able to think of the right words while talking.

  • They may have no interest in something they used to love.

These behaviors can be among the signs that your aging parent is deteriorating.

  • You may notice your aging parent struggling with math problems that were always easy for them.

  • Or they may act like the complete opposite of themselves, becoming depressed, cranky, moody, fearful, needy, or suspicious of others for no apparent reason.

These can all be signs of Alzheimer’s disease. This is becoming the most common form of dementia.

  • Your aging parents may be misplacing things often.

  • They may show poor judgment (like wearing the wrong clothes for the season).

  • They may be confused while doing routine things.

  • They may develop poor hygiene and not shower or groom themselves.

As their senior caregiver, you may notice a different set of symptoms of dementia that stem from another type, such as vivid hallucinations and frequent falling.

In some cases your aging parent may be acting very rudely toward others, or seeming like they don’t care about others, and sometimes making bold sexual comments, or exposing themselves.

Some symptoms of dementia appear suddenly. This could be from a couple of things. One is that they may have a form of the disease that seems to strike out of the blue. Or they might be briefly confused because they have a new sickness or because an illness they already have is getting worse.

Caregivers often become frustrated by the effects of the disease on their aging parent’s behavior. We need to remember to not take it personally. Although you can’t control their behavior, you can influence it- and your own reaction.

You can react in certain ways can make their behavior easier to handle. You can find helpful ideas for responding to the most common symptoms of dementia through numerous websites.

For example, your aging parent might begin to act differently closer to nightfall. This is a common sign of deterioration, called “sundowning”. You can lessen the confusion it causes by closing the blinds and turning on lights before dusk. Keeping them busy with a quiet activity or taking them for a walk can also help.

  • Occasional forgetfulness or irritability does not need to be cause for concern.

  • But being confused, forgetful or irritable more often than usual could be symptoms of dementia.

  • They may lose their way to places they know well.

  • Or they may be unable to find the right words to express themselves more often than usual.


If you find that your aging parent is having trouble doing everyday things, or has become unusually suspicious of others, these may also be signs.

Dementia doesn’t have to destroy your relationship with your aging parent. You can help preserve the good times you have left with guidance, compassion, and love.

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