How to Spot Cognitive Decline in a Loved One

How to Spot Cognitive Decline in a Loved One

Cognitive decline is common in aging people. Many seniors notice their faculties are not as sharp as they once were, whether that is the occasional memory issue or a degenerative condition like dementia. It can be difficult to tell whether your loved one is suffering from brief lapses of memory or if they are showing signs of more serious issues. Because this can affect their healthcare decisions and estate plan, it is important to watch and take action.

What’s normal?

Normal aging is usually characterized as slowing down—but thinking, processing and other functions are generally fine. For example, misplacing your keys, forgetting someone’s name but remembering their face, or walking into a room, only to forget why you went in there, is typically normal.

Signs of abnormal aging or cognitive impairment

Abnormal cognitive aging typically manifests in issues with executive function. This includes problems with organizing, planning and following conversations. For example, if your loved one has a history of hosting the same eight family members for a holiday meal, yet suddenly does not know where to begin this year, that could be a sign. They may miss appointments or planned events, or their mind wanders off when they are engaged in conversation.

Advanced cognitive decline is far more noticeable. For example, the person might have trouble recognizing family members or confuse them with someone else. They may isolate and withdraw from their family (commonly mistaken for depression) or undergo significant personality changes, such as a short temper or flat affect. Often, they experience difficulties in daily activities, like cooking, eating, bathing and getting dressed. They might find themselves lost in familiar locations, or neglect paying bills and checking their mail.

If you notice these signs of cognitive decline, it is important to notify your loved one’s physician. You may also want to look for their advance healthcare directive, which—if it exists—may name a healthcare surrogate who can make decisions on their behalf, should they become fully incapacitated.

Talk to the trusted estate planning lawyers at Baumann Kangas Estate Law in Tampa, FL for assistance with your estate planning needs.