Talking To Parents About Dementia

I want to share with you my thoughts about a very sensitive topic— talking with your parents about signs of dementia.

First let me begin by asking you some questions: Has your parent started doing things that they’ve never done before? For example, do they put things in places they don’t belong? Do they seem disoriented in ways that don’t seem typical of who they are? Do they ask you questions about things they should know the answer to? If any of these things have occurred, it may be time to talk with them and have them tested for cognitive impairment, which may increase the risk of developing dementia.

This is not an easy discussion to have for many reasons. Adult children don’t want to offend their parents, or may be worried about hurting a family relationship or their parent’s feelings.  They may be afraid that the discussion will uncover something they don’t want to face.

As difficult as it is, broaching the subject can lead to a diagnosis, and having definitive information can be helpful for everyone involved. The parent can have a say in what they’d like to happen if the discussion happens early enough in the process. Adult children who know what their parents want will avoid the stress and guilt of having to make decisions for them.  Being proactive can help everyone avoid a crisis situation.

Other reasons to talk to your parent include:

  • Early diagnosis can lead to better medical treatment. Some medications help with the symptoms. Leading a healthier lifestyle can help with quality of life.
  • Your parent may want to become involved in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s.
  • Your parent may have dementia-like symptoms that are not Alzheimer’s but another condition such as an infection. Knowing this might be very important for the treatment of those diseases.

These are 10 warning signs and symptoms of dementia that may help you know if it might be time to talk with your parent:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

For more detailed descriptions of these signs and symptoms, go to

About the author
Bonnie Elliott


CarePatrol of Central Maryland & Loudoun Virginia

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