How to Tell When a Loved One with Dementia Is Sick

dementia and illnessDementia can make it difficult to tell when a loved one has come down with a cold or another illness. They may not be able to tell you how they’re feeling in an intelligible way. By being observant and keeping an eye out for certain signs, you can spot when they may need a little extra TLC, medication, or a trip to the doctor. Here are some tips.

  • A runny nose or sneezing by itself may not be a cold or flu–it might be just allergies instead. Try to determine if your loved one has additional symptoms, like fever or tiredness. If they do have a cold, make sure that they stay well-hydrated.
  • Those with dementia or Alzheimer’s are unfortunately susceptible to urinary tract infections. Due to the intimate nature of the task, keeping these areas clean isn’t always easy for caregivers. If their urine has a strong sour smell, they likely have an infection and need treatment. Urine may also be darker or even contain blood, and your loved one will have to use the bathroom more frequently than usual. Finally, urinary tract infections can cause behavior changes in seniors and even bring on dementia symptoms. If you notice any of these signs, be sure to treat the infection right away. A neglected urinary tract infection can land a senior in the hospital.
  • Look for signs that your loved one is paying attention to or favoring one part of the body over others. That could indicate that they’re experiencing pain. Do a thorough check of the area to see if there are any bruises or other abnormalities.
  • Watch for changes in bowel movements and abnormal stool. If problems don’t respond to over-the-counter medication, seek the advice of your loved one’s doctor.
  • Changes in speaking patterns or behavior is another important sign. If a loved one’s demenaor suddenly changes without obvious explanation, and attempts to distract or calm them down don’t work, illness or injury is often the cause. They may also attempt to “speak” to you using gibberish. Even though your loved one cannot express themselves properly, they’re trying to give you information.

Your best tool as your loved one’s primary caregiver is intimate knowledge of their usual habits and behavior. Once you notice variations from what’s typical, you should begin to suspect that problems are afoot. If you have any concerns about your loved one’s health, be sure to get in touch with their physician.