How Families Can Help Identify the Early Signs of Memory Loss and Dementia in Loved Ones
Unfortunately, many nursing home workers are not trained to identify the warning signs of declining cognitive abilities. And worrisome activities of a resident with dementia, a form of Alzheimer’s Disease, are too easily missed by overworked and poorly resourced care teams. This leaves many residents struggling due to the extra supervision and management of their daily activities, health and mental wellness, medications, and financial needs. Family members and friends are typically the first to request help after noticing a loved one’s behavioral changes or one or more of the concerning events listed below.
- Unable To Carry Conversation
Some people living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to concentrate, follow a plan, or follow a conversation. This includes confusion with writing or following, or joining a discussion. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object, or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a “bed” a “table”).
- Preventable Falls
People with dementia have an increased risk of falls and hip fractures. Falls can also happen when staff is not following protocol during a transfer, whether manually or with a lifting device’s assistance. Severe bone fractures and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are common fall injuries that lead to a decline in a person’s health and ultimately contribute to 20% of nursing home resident deaths each year.
- Wandering and “Getting Lost Easily”
Six out of 10 people with dementia will wander and aimlessly move about within the facility or grounds without regard for their safety. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP) has identified several types of wandering, such as environmentally cued wandering, recreational wandering, restless wandering, fantasy, and dangerous elopement. Elopement is the most dangerous type of wandering and occurs when a patient attempts to leave the nursing home altogether and wander outside. Residents can be seriously hurt or killed during these preventable events.
When confronted, eloping patients may respond aggressively towards staff and be unwilling to cooperate or return to the nursing home’s safe areas, harming themselves or others. Worse, if the issue is left unresolved, wandering incidents may continue to occur as it is common for residents who have attempted elopement to flee again.
- Confusion and Increased Challenges with Simple Tasks
As dementia progresses, the ability to perform daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, eating, socializing, or walking decreases. Sedentary behavior in nursing home residents is also associated with an increased risk of illness and death.
- Calendar Mishaps and Scheduling Mistakes
People living with dementia can lose track of dates, seasons, and important events like holidays or scheduled visits with friends and family. And sometimes, they have trouble understanding where they are, why they are there, or how they got there.
- Misplacing Items and Accusing Others of Stealing
They may lose things, put them in unusual places, or be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Your loved one may accuse others of stealing or misplace vital information and personal items, especially as the disease progresses.
- Changes in Personality, Mood, and Decision Making
Mood and personality changes can happen to someone with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia. Individuals may experience changes in judgment make poor choices. For example, they may frivolously spend money or pay less attention to their eating and grooming. They can quickly become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, overly excited, or anxious – and just as easily upset even when visiting friends or family or care staff and doctors they once trusted.
One of the most common signs of dementia, especially in the early stage, is forgetting information such as important dates or events, asking the same questions repeatedly, and increasingly relying on others to recall facts, people, or routines.
How To Question Your Loved One If Suspecting Dementia?
Keep nursing home stops simple, and trying to ask one question at a time during your next visit or phone call can reveal much of the unknown activities of a nursing home residents’ day. Keeping a friendly line of conversation that shows you are interested in their daily life may open the door to tell you something they are upset about or show you something concerning. Family and friends of someone showing the beginning signs of dementia, abuse, neglect, or cognitive decline may be able to respond effectively to exploratory care questions such as:
- “Mom, are you happy today?”
- “What did you do yesterday that you enjoyed?”
- “Are your medications making you feel better?”
- “Dad, are you in any pain?”
- “What holiday are you looking forward to?”
- “Is there anything special you would like to do today?”
- “Did you have a favorite meal lately?”
- “How about I visit again soon? What day should we schedule?”
You can also watch for their response in gestures, movements, and facial expressions, which can all convey specific meanings. And if you suspect elder abuse or neglect of any kind, please contact us for a free consultation with one of our experienced nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect: An Unfortunately Common Concern in Memory Loss Care Facilities
To reduce the risk of ongoing abuse or neglect of loved ones in the early stages of dementia, families should be aware of these tragic forms of abuse and neglect and, once noticed, act quickly to prevent it from continuing.
- Physical Abuse: Causing physical pain or injury to a resident.
- Emotional Abuse: Any verbal assault, the threat of violence, harassment, and intimidation is not acceptable.
- Neglect: A failure to provide necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or a safe environment.
- Confinement: The restraining or isolating of the resident.
- Financial Abuse: The misuse or withholding of the person’s financial resources (money, property) to their disadvantage or the advantage of someone else.
- Sexual Abuse: Any touching, fondling, or sexual activity when the person cannot understand, is unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
- Willful Deprivation: Willfully denying the person medication, medical care, food, shelter, or physical assistance, and thereby exposing the individual with Alzheimer’s to the risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm.
- Self-neglect: Due to lack of insight and cognitive changes, a person with an ignored cognitive disease may be unable to safely and adequately provide for day-to-day needs and may be at risk for harm, falls, wandering, or malnutrition.
If your loved one has expressed behavioral or physical changes leading you to feelings of concern, act quickly to question their care team and demand answers from administrative staff. When you are ready, consult with an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney at Levin & Perconti.
Understaffed Nursing Homes Will Struggle with Dementia Residents
Direct-care workers, such as aides and personal care attendants, provide most daily support to older adults battling dementia. They are responsible for bathing, feeding, medication administration, bathroom needs, dressing, housekeeping, food preparation, and other activities. In addition, to already being overworked and underpaid, it is likely there won’t be enough staff to care for all residents caused by the pandemic. Most Illinois nursing homes have fewer nurses and medical staff than they report. This leaves underqualified and stressed nursing assistants and personal aides with the 24-hour tasks to keep far too many patients’ daily living needs to be met. Those who require extra care, such as dementia patients, are too often the first to be abused, forgotten, and neglected.
Again, family members will have to stay vigilant in protecting their loved one’s rights, and much can be discovered during an impromptu visit or phone call. In the case of a violation of any resident’s rights, contact a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney at Levin & Perconti and seek out extra support resources from these community advocates.
- Caring Across Generations
- Center for Medicare Advocacy
- Justice in Aging
- Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC)
- National Association of Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman (NALLTCO)
- National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs (NASOP)
- National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
- Alzheimer’s Association
Sadly, residents challenged by different forms of dementia may become at risk for nursing home abuse and neglect more often than residents with non-cognitive battles. But how family members, staff, or friends talk to them can impact their ongoing emotions and well-being and help identify any dangers.
Respected Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys
If you suspect elder abuse or neglect is happening to your loved one while receiving care in a nursing home or memory care facility, please contact us for a free consultation. Our experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti can gather the evidence needed to file an elder abuse case on your behalf. Please, call for a FREE and confidential consultation at (312) 332-2872 in Chicago, Illinois, or toll-free at 1-877-374-1417.