What to Expect As Your Loved One Ages: Does Mom or Dad Have Dementia?

Image of Dr. Macie Smith, as she discusses tips for supporting someone living with dementia

By Dr. Macie Smith

Memory lapses can be a normal part of aging, but when are they cause for concern? Aging expert Dr. Macie Smith explains the warning signs to look for.

Occasionally forgetting where the keys are, walking into a room and forgetting why or not being able to find the right word are all a normal part of aging. However, when someone experiences memory lapses more often, frequently repeats themselves, forgets recent or routine information or demonstrates increased agitation without a trigger, these could be signs of a more significant cognitive decline like dementia. 

Age-related memory loss vs. dementia

Age-related memory loss is different from memory loss associated with types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease in that age-related memory loss doesn’t significantly affect one’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Dementia, on the other hand, is marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment and abstract thinking.

What to do if you have concerns

If you don’t see your loved one often, you might notice a significant change in their cognitive ability from one visit to the next. If you see them more frequently, it’s possible you may notice gradual changes over a period of time.  

If you have concerns, talk to other family members and close friends to see if they have noticed similar changes. But keep in mind, if you have a concern, it is a valid concern, and there is no harm in pursuing a consultation for your loved one with their primary care physician.  

One thing I can’t stress enough is that it’s critical that you address the concern with a health care provider as soon as you become aware of it. Early intervention for more serious cognitive decline is the best way to preserve quality of life.

Acknowledge your emotions

Speaking of quality of life, it’s important to recognize your emotions as you come to terms with your loved one’s diagnosis. It’s normal to feel sadness, grief, fear, anger, hopelessness and resentment. I encourage you to feel your feelings, but don’t allow them to prevent you from addressing the concerning behaviors you have noticed.

There are many possible medical reasons for cognitive decline that are NOT dementia, so don’t think the worst from the very start. These may include a urinary tract infection, dehydration, a vitamin B12 deficiency or a medication interaction or side effect, to name a few. 

So, take a deep breath, acknowledge that you are taking positive action to promote your loved one’s quality of life, and take it one day at a time.

Next time, Dr. Macie Smith will discuss how to go about making an appointment to have your loved one evaluated.

Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care.


Whether your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, understanding the disease and identifying the right family caregiver resources and support can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Rest assured, SYNERGY HomeCare is here to help you navigate through uncharted waters and create peace of mind in caring for your loved one experiencing dementia or memory loss. 

Download the FREE SYNERGY HomeCare Memory Care Guide, visit the “Resources” section here.

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