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How to Spot Early Signs of Dementia in an Aging Parent?

Many people fail to spot the early signs of dementia in their aging parents, focusing on the aging process rather than cognitive deficits.

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While my own parents died relatively young (my mother of breast cancer at 54, my father to leukemia at 76), many of my friends in their 50s and 60s are stuggling to care for parents--whether their own, their spouses', or both. The demanding and time-consuming work of caregiving envelopes their lives, sometimes for decades. 

This article challenged me to think about how easy it is to overlook the signs a parent is failing cogitively. We often think, "Oh, Dad is really showing his age," but too seldom, "Dad seems to be showing signs of a cognitive deficit or dementia." 


“People tend to attribute too much to normal aging and are a little dismissive of cognitive loss,” says Dr. Paul Fishman, a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a neurologist at UMD’s Medical Center. “Dementia is very common, and in general it is under-diagnosed, rather than over-diagnosed.”

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

In talking with friends whose parents suffer(ed) from dementia, I often heard: "We wish we were told more. We wish the doctors had given us more information." Even in advanced medical communities like Stanford and PAMF, my friends were frustrated by feeling uninformed, ill-prepared. Better communcation by medical personnnel would have helped them feel more in control of caretaking challenges.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am the CEO/President of CSM Consulting (Educational and Design Consulting Firm) and founder of The Parent Education Series (SUHSD), now the largest program of its kind in Silicon Valley.


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