Ever since your dad passed away, your elderly mother has been living alone in the house you grew up in. But lately she’s been very forgetful, and can’t seem to remember major events that happened just in the past few years. Mom also keeps “misplacing” everyday items around her home, or putting them in strange places. Could she have Alzheimer’s?

Watching someone you love deal with Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating, especially when it’s a parent. If you’re concerned that your mom or dad has Alzheimer’s, there are several ways to find out for sure.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that makes brain cells waste away and die. It’s the most common cause of dementia, a term that broadly describes a continual decline in a senior’s thinking, social skills and behavior that eventually interferes with their ability to carry out normal daily activities. According to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org), dementia’s early signs are related to memory loss, and may include:

  • Forgetting the names of family members and everyday objects
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Repeating statements and questions over and over
  • Forgetting important conversations, appointments or events
  • Routinely misplacing household items, or putting them in strange places
  • Struggling to come up with the right words to identify objects, express thoughts or engage in normal conversations

If you or your siblings have noticed some of these symptoms, mom could have Alzheimer’s. Now it’s time to investigate how to find out for sure.

Compile Detailed Notes

Start taking detailed notes about mom’s unusual behavior. The purpose of having written documentation is so you can present it to her physician later. Over a period of several weeks, look for these specific behaviors:

  • Using poor judgment. Is she making blatantly bad decisions, including ones affecting her safety and finances?
  • Appointments and commitments. Does mom keep forgetting important doctor’s appointments or family get-togethers that she was just reminded about?
  • Daily struggles with memory. We all experience memory lapses. But is your parent having one or more per day?
  • Difficulty managing finances. Is managing her bills, taxes or expenses becoming a major problem? This is sometimes hard to monitor if you aren’t involved with your parent’s financial dealings, so you may have to ask mom about it directly.
  • Trouble using new gadgets. Is your mom struggling to adapt to a new phone, appliance or other gadget that she should master easily?
  • Forgetting the month or year. Does she frequently forget what month or year it is?
  • Repeating herself. Does mom just keep repeating