Signs a Senior Needs Memory CareSigns a Senior Needs Memory Care

As we age we lose brain cells which can result in us forgetting a name or where we left our keys. This is normal aging that we call a “senior moment.” This is not the memory loss that requires special care.

We love our elders, but sometimes the care they need is more than we can provide at home. A person with memory loss that interferes with their normal daily activities may need memory care. Memory problems can result from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or brain injury. Dementia is a more general term which includes Alzheimer’s disease. While stroke and brain trauma may respond to treatment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are progressive cognitive problems, meaning that they will not get better but may be slowed down. That also means that the problem comes on slowly – so slowly that you may dismiss the early signs.

Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s

We often liken dealing with seniors with memory problems to dealing with children. Both groups tend to be forgetful, especially when they are distracted or thinking about something else. But children will get better as they mature. Seniors with memory problems due to dementia will not get better, so it is unrealistic to expect it. Seniors themselves often do not recognize their memory problems, tend to think it is temporary or try to cover it up. From infancy we all have the experience of getting stronger, smarter, better as the years go by. It’s hard to face the fact that you may now be on the downhill slide, getting weaker, more forgetful and sometimes sicker as time goes by. Even for seniors who are healthy, some seemingly minor accident, like a fall, can set off a cascade of health-related events.

Caring for a senior can be very demanding, especially since most caregivers also have jobs, families and other demands on their time. If you feel overwhelmed and just want to put off making any big decision because things aren’t too bad right now, you may be fooling yourself. Although dementia comes on slowly, we sometimes dismiss it as “Grandma is having a bad day.” But if it is dementia, Grandma isn’t going to get better. She will continue to have bad days and worse days. It’s time to talk to her doctor about her symptoms and possible options.

Some Signs to Watch for in Your Senior Loved One

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Memory loss
  • Agitation
  • Sleeplessness
  • Hygiene problems
  • Delusions
  • Extreme personality changes
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Becoming physically violent or verbally abusive
  • Wandering off

If your loved one is living independently or with you, these are signs that it’s time to see your doctor. If it is dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you may want to consider a home. If she is already in a home, it may be time to think about getting her a more advanced level of care.

Memory care is usually given in a specialized facility, wing, unit, or program. It will offer structured daily activities and routine that is helpful for dementia patients. Alzheimer’s care facilities are licensed and staffed to handle the greater demands of caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

You can find local Alzheimer’s care facilities in your town at


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  1. Joni September 17, 2015 Reply

    so how do we deal with it when the spouse or mother has dementia, and you would like her to be in a retirement home, but she is not about to have any part of it??

  2. Susana September 17, 2015 Reply

    Hi Joni,

    I’m going through the very same thing right now.

    My mom was tested for dementia 3 years ago and was devastated to find out she had it. That started a campaign on her part to “cover up” all possible signs of it, such as; shortened phone conversations, purposely avoiding certain subjects, ordering the same meal in a restaurant that someone else ordered, etc.
    Lately, she can’t “fake it” anymore and it shows. The sad part is that she doesn’t realize that people can tell.

    My mom lives in a non-assisted senior residence. She is becoming delusional and making statements like; “My daughter picked me up and threw me on the floor and stole my pain medicine.” She doesn’t remember anything about what she has said within minutes. Adult Protective Services investigated her claim but closed the case when they interviewed her.

    Since I can no longer leave medication in her apt. for her to take on her own, I told her, if she lived in an assisted living residence, they could give her the pills. She said, “I’m not leaving my apt. until I die.”

    I have already found a place for my mom, but they want to meet and “observe” her before she moves in, to find out what “level of care” she’ll need. I will have to lie to her to get her there and to have her sit and talk with them. Fortunately, she spaces out pretty easily and doesn’t pay attention where I’m driving, so it won’t be too difficult UNTIL we’re in there.

    My only hope is that, since she puts a lot of faith in doctors, I have contacted her doctor regarding this. Tomorrow (9/18/15) is our appt. He is going to tell her that she can no longer live alone and recommends an assisted living facility. I’m holding my breath and hoping that she’ll listen and agree with him. But I expect an argument.
    Somehow it has to work because she can’t stay in her apt. much longer. She has “lost” her house phone, cell phone, remote control and pictures of family. She says that people have “stolen” her things. She also isn’t tending to her personal hygiene well. I have spent many sleepless nights with this problem. I don’t want her to “wander” or get hurt in any way and would like her to be in assisted living BEFORE she gets that bad.

    I was reading up on this subject today and, unfortunately, you need to use whatever means you can to get her into a facility. I got her 2 doctors (family doc and neurologist) to write letters stating she has dementia and is incapable of making financial or medical decisions. They have named me to make those decisions. That will be your protection in case she would want to press charges. Make sure you have medical and financial Power of Attorney also. I told my mother that I needed to be on her checking account because she can’t remember to pay the bills anymore and on the savings account, for expenses for her funeral in case she passes away. She “bought” the explanation. It really is for her own safety.

    We are in the same boat. I’ll let you know if seeing the doctor makes any difference.

    Good luck to us,

  3. Richard November 26, 2015 Reply

    My Mom “Faked It” for 2yrs., then ended up in the hospital till they had a room for her in a Long Term Care Place. Today she is 91 and Never Talks. I see her Daily and she doesn’t remember me Anymore , (I Think?? But every time I see her , I tell her WHO I am every 1/2hr. Now Dad is in a Seniors Home and is Starting to show a touch of “Dementia” It’s Hard work to just Visist them Both , let alone Take Care of them!! Mind you , I had a SPINE Operation a few mths ago and still manage to Care for Dad. He’ll be 89 in Feb.

  4. B Todd March 31, 2016 Reply

    Couldn’t you find a place that could take them both.That way your dad could visit and spend time with her.
    I know they say when you constantly have to remind them every five to fifteen min they dont remember.As a nurses aid and nurse. I cared for dementia unit patients. As an Agency fillin I cared for patients who were restrained would bite twisty pinch etc when you were cleaning them even try to throw or smear feces on you. But after a few times. (I DIDNT REACT TO THIS BEHAVIOR OTHER THAN WHEN TRYING TO HURT ME TELL THEM I LOVE THEM AND WAS CLEANING THEM OR CHANGING THEIR BED SO THEY WOULD BE MORE COMFORTABLE. AFTER A BIT I FOUND OUT I WAS DOING ALONE WHAT DAY TIME TOOK TWO OR 3PERSONS. AND THE COMBATIVENESS LESSENED EVEN REC .A LITTLE HELP FROM MY TWISTY PINCHY BITIE LADY. AND A SMILE ONCE AND A WHILE.
    DON couldnt belive I had even got her to use the bedpan a few times.

    I used to visit my great uncle ww1ww11Veteran and listen to his stories of way back when he used to race the buggy horse going to church on sundays. Had to do it going wouldn’t look correct to be racing away from church. Get to church fast so can get good seat in church pew. Wink wink

  5. Nash Rich April 8, 2016 Reply

    I had to do some volunteer hours at an old folks home, and I spent a lot of time with the seniors that were in the memory care. It was hard to see them struggle with their memory, because some of them had great stories to tell, and I could tell they would skip over important parts they couldn’t remember. I thought it was interesting that sleeplessness was a sign that a senior may need memory care. Thanks for the info.

  6. Derek Mcdoogle March 27, 2017 Reply

    In your article, you mentioned that dementia is a more general term which includes Alzheimer’s disease and these two are both progressive cognitive problems. My mom celebrated her 78th birthday party last night and during her party, I noticed that she was having a lot of problems remembering things. I wonder if most nursing homes or assisted living centers have memory care options.

  7. Alexandria Martinez November 17, 2017 Reply

    My best friend is worried that his grandmother may need to be put into memory care. She is worried that it may be too soon but is not sure if waiting is a good idea. It would help her family a lot to know that confusion and disorientation is a common sign that she will need this help.

  8. Vivian Black January 5, 2018 Reply

    I recently noticed my dad forgetting things quite often which sometimes hinders his ability to do regular things properly. That made me suspect that my father might have some sort of dementia and would require better care as I’m usually at work. What you mentioned about thinking about getting him to a more advanced level of care if he does have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is something I would be working on. Thanks for the helpful article on some signs of a senior needing memory care!

  9. Amy Winters August 21, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for pointing out that sudden mood swings are a sign that you should consider memory care for your senior loved one. My mother-in-law recently started having mood swings. We’re not sure what the cause is, but I think a memory issue is definitely a possibility. I’ll definitely take her to the doctor to see if memory care would help her!

  10. Sherry Gajos September 11, 2018 Reply

    I liked what you said about how seniors often do not recognize their memory problems, or think it is temporary and hide it. My grandmother is beginning to show some signs of memory problems, so the family is trying to figure out how best to take care of her properly. Thank you for the information about watching out for various signs of memory issues like confusion and disorientation.

  11. Marcus Coons January 30, 2019 Reply

    Thanks for mentioning how you should be aware of the hygiene of your senior. It is important to remember that this is an important part of their health. Personally, I would also want to find the best help I can get to help my mom.

  12. Taylor Bishop February 8, 2019 Reply

    Thanks for explaining when a senior may need memory care. I’m glad that you mentioned some signs to watch for, like sleeplessness. I’m interested to learn if this would be because the senior just forgot to sleep or if they can’t sleep.

  13. Tyler Johnson May 15, 2019 Reply

    That’s good to know that if your older loved one is starting to have some memory loss, then you should probably take them to go see the doctor. My mother is getting older now and I would want to make sure that I could make sure she is getting taken care of. I’ll have to make sure that I take her to the doctor as soon as I see any of these symptoms so I know if she needs to live in a memory care community.

  14. Marcus Coons June 4, 2019 Reply

    I agree that caring for a senior can be demanding. It is important to consider all the aspects of their care to make sure they are comfortable in their old age. Personally, I would want to find a community that has experience with dealing with the type of ailments that my mom has so she can be taken care of.

  15. Ashley Johnson June 17, 2019 Reply

    I liked that you said that though we care about our loved ones and wish to take care of them, sometimes their needs are greater than we can handle at home. I would imagine that watching your loved one struggle with memory loss would be disheartening. I would consider having my loved one taken care of in a memory care facility so that they would receive the help that they need.

  16. Jane Burt September 13, 2019 Reply

    It was very helpful to learn that memory care is a specialized program that is designed to help those with memory problems such as dementia. My grandmother has dementia and we are very worried about her as she isn’t able to participate in many activities. Maybe by placing her in a memory care program, she can be able to participate in activities.

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