While personality changes in old age are common, they are usually minimal. If you are noticing drastic personality changes in your aging parent that he or she seems like a completely different person, it may be a sign of an underlying medical illness. Instead of ignoring these changes or assuming that it is “simply part” of old age, you should do the following:
Talk to Your Aging Parent
Before you expect the worst and start reading about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you should first find out if there are non-medical reasons that may be causing your mom or dad to act differently. Have a serious talk with your loved one and find out if there are certain things that have been bothering him or her.
Perhaps your parent’s irritability and erratic mood swings are caused by his or her struggle to cope with the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that come with aging. Sickness or death of a close friend can also be a reason. Ultimately, you can only know these things if you have a talk with your aging parent and if you listen well. Take note of your conversation, in case there’s a need to discuss them with a doctor later.
Assess Your Parent’s Diet and Medication
Apart from having a conversation with your loved one to learn about his or her concerns, you should explore other possible explanations for the personality change such as diet and medication. Is your parent eating healthily? Is he or she getting enough vitamins and minerals? Studies have shown how certain vitamin deficiencies can lead to changes in behavior. For instance, a lack of vitamin D has been found to be linked with depression.
Check the medications your parent takes as well. Learn more about the drugs particularly their side effects and find out if he or she is taking any new medication. If your parent is taking several drugs at once, you can consult a doctor to know if a drug interaction is causing the problem.
Look Out for Other Signs and Symptoms
If you have ruled out distressing experiences, diet, and medication among the possible causes of the personality change, you should consider an underlying medical cause. Before seeing a doctor, look out for signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia since personality changes among the elderly are commonly associated with these conditions.
Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include misplacing things often, forgetfulness, and problem following storylines. Signs of dementia, on the other hand, include difficulty carrying out tasks that require planning and concentration, episodes of mental confusion, and problems with finding the right words or following conversation.
Encourage Your Parent to See a Doctor
If you notice your parent exhibiting the symptoms mentioned above, in addition to personality changes, you should talk to him or her about seeing a doctor for screening. If you think that he or she will not be open or would be overly anxious about the purpose of the visit, you may tell your parent that you are just going in for a routine check-up.
Let a Reputable Doctor Evaluate Your Parent
Find a reputable doctor who can evaluate your loved one by asking your trusted family members and friends. You may want to meet with the doctor first to discuss what you have noted so far, particularly if your parent is resistant to being checked for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
At the end of the day, your aging parent needs to be properly assessed by a doctor before you conclude anything or let them try different interventions. Work with your doctor to get the right diagnosis and to find the best course of action for your parent’s condition.
Resources that Can Help You:
- Green-Field Library by the Alzheimer’s Association
- ALZConnected Online Community
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Education and Referral Center
- The Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center
Tools that Can Help You
Are the tips mentioned here relevant to your situation? If you have gone through a similar experience, what actions did you take to help your aging parent? Are there things you wished you would have done differently? We value your thoughts, please let us know in the comments section.