Cognitive decline has long been a barrier that prevents older adults from maintaining their independence and aging in place. Cognitive decline is at times harder to notice and address than physical ailments, especially in cases when the older adult attempts to conceal the presence or extent of such decline.
Homecare agencies that seek to aid older adults to age in place longer, surrounded by friends, family and community. In order to enable older adults to age in place while still maintaining their safety, knowing how to identify cognitive decline early on is key.
What to look for:
- Attention – when you notice an older adult having difficulty staying focused and getting easily distracted, this could be a sign of cognitive decline. This may become noticeable as a person lacks the ability to pay attention to read a novel or follow the storyline of a movie.
- Memory – the most evident sign of cognitive decline. A person may become forgetful of recent events, forget close friends/families names, misplace items or miss appointments.
- Language – often begins to present as someone who has “word finding difficulties”. A person may get stuck on remembering a certain word which can be frustrating for them. As language difficulties progress this may present as inability to comprehend speech or express speech.
- Visuospatial – a person with cognitive decline may start to present with difficulties around depth perception for walking up and down stairs, recognizing faces or objects and getting lost in familiar environments. These are or related to the visuospatial skills which begin to diminish as the brain changes. The clock drawing test is often used to detect difficulty in this area.
- Executive Skills – these are the higher levels of thinking skills required to complete complex tasks. These skills include the ability to initiate, plan, sequence and problem solve during a task. As an older adult gradually experiences more difficulty employing these skills, complex activities such as paying bills, taking medication, shopping, cooking or driving become harder to perform. If you notice the older adult starting to avoid these tasks, it is often because they are unable to complete them due to their declining thinking skills. Unsafe behaviours may also be a feature of diminished executive skills.
It is important to remember that cognitive decline is a difficult process to come to terms with, both for the older adult and their family. Because of this older adults are often not transparent about possible change in cognitive ability, and it is often hard for homecare agencies to accurately assess the cognitive state of a new client, and harder still to map changes in an existing client. Unlocking this challenge is key for homecare agencies to enable their clients to age in place longer.
To find out how Sensi can help you easily identify and track cognitive decline in your clients, click here to book a free demo today!