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Families Needed to Help Detect Dementia Earlier

Our Illinois nursing home lawyers appreciate that many seniors in local long-term care facilities suffer from various mental cognition issues, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, one of the main reasons why many seniors and their families make the choice to seek out the around-the-clock care that is provided at nursing homes and skilled living facilities is specifically because of the vulnerabilities of these mental conditions. When facilities fail to take these vulnerabilities into account it is often a sign of nursing home neglect.

Degenerative brain diseases can take a very serious toll on a senior, exposing them to a range of life-threatening risks. Unfortunately, many families only become aware of their loved ones’ condition after a traumatic event or injury occurs. According to a report in the USA Today,that is why as part of a new “National Alzheimer’s Plan,” advocates are working on ways to get doctors and families more involved in early detection-spotting the problem before it leads to injury.

This is often easier said than done. For one thing, those in the early stages of dementia are usually good at covering up their problems. Even when mistakes are made or memories are forgotten, it may be difficult for loved ones to realize that the problems are actually connected with a serious cognitive disease. Experts say that the problem is often harder to detect when a spouse is involved. For example, when a senior forgets to pay a bill or forgets how to make dinner, their spouse often helps them out. While this is obviously a good thing, it makes it harder for other family members-adult children-to learn about the actual condition of their ailing parent.

But early detection is incredibly important in these cases so that the senior can be guaranteed to have help and to avoid serious accidents. Adult children often play a crucial role in this. One advocate working to prevent elder neglect and abuse explained that having close family input, “is the only way to know if the person really is eating and taking her medicines as she claims, and not forgetting to turn off the stove.”

Medical professionals, particularly primary-care physicians, can also play a crucial role in identifying cognitive problems early. For example, during check-ups it is important for these professionals to ask a few more questions to get a better idea of whether the senior is experiencing any problems that might be caused by mental issues. Simply asking if everything is alright and then getting a positive answer is insufficient.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys were interested to learn of other ways federal officials are working on the early detection problem. Medicare has a new program that pays for cognitive screenings at annual wellness visits. In addition, seniors are being encouraged to take steps to name a power of attorney and health care proxy. While it is often difficult for seniors to seek out help in these cases, having another with the legal ability to act in one’s best interests is often a crucial part of ensuring these vulnerable seniors do not unknowingly cause harm to themselves.

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