Dear Alzheimer’s Association,
My 78-year-old sister hasn’t been acting like herself. Her house has always been really neat and tidy, but last time I visited it was a mess! It didn’t look at all like the place she’s lived for more than 50 years. She’s also becoming more of a homebody and would rather stay in than do the things she once enjoyed. This is so unlike her. I suppose she could be depressed, but I’m worried something more is going on. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to upset her by jumping to conclusions.
Worried in Washington
Dear Worried in Washington,
As someone who sounds like you know your sister well, you’re right to be concerned. When there are distinct changes in a person’s behavior, it could be something serious. The only way to know for sure is to see a physician, which, in most cases, is a primary care physician. The doctor can evaluate your sister to get a better sense of what’s going on and recommend next steps.
With that said, I know it can be difficult to approach someone with your concerns and a recommendation to see a doctor. Sometimes people may not see the changes in themselves that you’re noticing. In other instances, people may not want to see them, because they’re scared something serious might be going on. Whatever the case, it’s important to have a conversation with the person to share your concerns and encourage them to see a health care professional.
I recommend that you look at 10 Steps to Approach Memory Concerns
. This list from the Alzheimer’s Association offers guidance on how to start a conversation about changes in memory, thinking or behavior in others. These steps can be a helpful guide to assess the situation and work toward the goal of seeing a doctor.
Best of luck and know that the Association is always available when you need us. You can call our 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) any time, day or night.
Ruth Drew, M.S., LPC
Alzheimer’s Association Director of Information and Support Services