Has the Pandemic Changed Your Brain?

Eight Signs of Possible Cognitive Decline

Over the last year, older adults have been to staying home in order to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the social isolation that has come with stay at home orders has taken a toll on many seniors. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that there were approximately 16% more dementia-related deaths than expected in 2020 due to COVID-19 and its effects on emotional and physical health.

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Dr. Catherine Madison, neurologist at Senior At Home’s Center for Dementia Care, says, “Depression appears to be a risk factor for dementia. Adults who notice behavior changes, depression, or cognitive decline in themselves or persons in their ‘bubble’ over the last year should not dismiss those concerns.”

Spotting signs of dementia early is key: a 2020 study suggests that addressing modifiable risk factors might prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.

Dr. Madison recommends seeking a memory screening if you or a loved one has noticed a significant change in two or more of these areas:

  1. Problems with poor judgment
  2. Reduced interest in hobbies or activities
  3. Repeating questions, comments, or stories over and over
  4. Trouble learning how to use a new tool or gadget (smartphone, appliance, etc.)
  5. Forgetting basic facts (current month, year, street name, etc.)
  6. Trouble handling financial affairs (balancing a checkbook, filing taxes, paying bills, etc.)
  7. Difficulty remembering everyday tasks (appointments, taking out the garbage, etc.)
  8.  Daily problems with thinking or memory

Age, genetics, and family history are all primary risk factors for dementia that cannot be changed, but Dr. Madison reminds us that other factors can be changed or modified to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

In addition to addressing any early signs of cognitive decline, you and your loved ones can reduce your risk by keeping physically active, not smoking, staying socially and mentally active, controlling blood pressure,  following a healthy diet, and getting a good night’s sleep. As we slowly swing back into our active lives this year, these modifications will not only reduce the risk of dementia, they will help improve health and spirits overall.

And if you or a loved one does seem to be experiencing cognitive decline, don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance and support. Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care provides expert in-home memory care and support for people experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, as well as practical and emotional assistance for families.

To schedule a dementia care consultation, email dementiacare@jfcs.org or call 415-449-3712.

Catherine MadisonDr. Madison is a board-certified neurologist at Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care. She specializes in supporting older adults and their families as they navigate cognitive impairment and the practical elements of long-term planning with a dementia diagnosis.