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My 82-year-old mom is really pretty remarkable, but not what she used to be — of course. She seems to be able to manage her own affairs (with the occasional assist), her health is good with the exception of an irritating hammertoe, and she just moved from her large house to a condominium complex which is not assisted living, but is populated by primarily folks 60ish and up. So, all in all, I consider myself very lucky.


I have noticed that she’s not as mentally quick as she was (to be expected), and she tends to repeat stories. She’s a bit of a compulsive talker, so it may partially be just filling dead air. The thing that’s more concerning to me is she is more subject to being influenced by others than she used to be; she’s generally quite opinionated, so that seems odd. She’s also needier than she was; calls several times a day, that sort of thing.


I live nearby, and try to keep an eye on her, but what I’m wondering about is how you can tell what’s normal brain aging and what’s the onset of dementia. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I’m hoping to get some ideas about what to watch for.


Thanks much!

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It sounds like your mom just has age related decline. Being forgetful and moderately “needy” is not necessarily a sign of dementia. If it were, I’d probably be in the end stages by now. I am also a babbler. I’m sure I annoy plenty of people by it.

My mom lived in a 55 and up apartment, too. It was a great place. They had bingo and went on monthly bus trips. There was also a Nurse Practitioner who came once a month and was in contact with the resident’s doctors. Find out if your mom’s condo has anything like this and see if she wants to get involved.

Observe her behavior without being obvious or asking her a lot of questions. And, stay in touch with her doctor.
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The first things I notice with my mother was: losing her words ( talking just fine than somewhere in a sentience she wouldn't be able to find the right word), started repeating herself (not a lot at first), would talk a lot on some days & not so much on other, than she started becoming withdrawn.

Go to online Alz.org it is loaded with information & you can call them toll free and talk to some there about your concerns and they will guide you and send you a list of symptoms.

This is what I did & they were a big help.

Good Luck to you and your mom.
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This is exactly how my mother is. I see her and within 5 minutes her decline from the past visit is very noticeable.

Missing words, repeating herself over and over, losing her train of thought-she covers pretty well for those who don't know her, but for me, it's obvious.

Not much to be done, really. Until she cannot dress, feed or perform her daily living needs, she just needs to be kept safe (she is) and looked after. Living in my brother's home is fine for her. She's 88 and likely will live 10 more years.

Even if/when she becomes seriously embroiled in the dementia world, I don't think we'd ever get brother to agree to have her placed in a NH.
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When my mother was at this stage we mentioned it to the doctor when she went in for a check-up. He did the standard questionnaire and she did quite well (scored 28 out of 30). Having this as a baseline was very helpful. When we went in 5 months later (due to us noticing that she had gone downhill quickly), and she scored only a 5 out of 30, it was clear something had happened. We moved forward from there with more testing.

So even though your Mom is still functioning well, it might be good to get a baseline test with her regular doctor.
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Please make sure she has legal papers in place: DPOA, HCPOA, will, etc.

I'm most concerned about what you say about her being easily influenced. Has her cognitive ability been formally assessed at all, even just by her PCP?
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I noticed first I’d say remember when....&he’d say no I don’t remember. My first clue. Then repeating in same day same thing. Ok time for neurologist as primary doctor said just getting older but to please me started him on aricept. That was 12 years ago & full blown Alzheimer’s now but sweet as can be except at bedtime. He must have his covers just so w no wrinkles. I finally got wise just let him sleep on top of covers or what ever cause in a min. all is forgotten. Paper work began to confuse him. 3rd clue. You might ask if you two could do her paper work together just so you would have knowledge in case she ever needed help. Whatever you do love her, assure her she’s safe & if she has any questions since your mind is younger just ask me.
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I've been dealing with my 92 year old dad for about 3-1/2 years now. At that time, he had been diagnosed with 'mild cognitive impairment' and was still doing well on his tests. He still had a good handle on paying his bills and handling his affairs. Fast forward to 2018. He tested very low earlier this year. He is in full blown dementia. The things I have noticed that have changed in these 3 years is that his anxiety level is much higher now, even with the help of medication. On the bad days, the phone calls don't stop. He is confused, defiant, frail (walks with a walker full time now) and most of all HE HAS NO SOCIAL FILTER. His outbursts with people, in stores, etc. are embarrassing. We had a go-around at the tire store this weekend where he was so rude to the staff, I walked out. (He doesn't drive any more but the caregivers drive his cars). I was awarded guardianship and conservatorship a few months ago. However, he is at the point where he is trying to hang on to everything so tight and it is creating a lot of friction between us. I don't discuss the conservatorship much and we have allowed him to maintain one checking account of his own where he is allowed to pay the monthly bills for his house such as utilities - I write the checks, he signs them. (Yes, still living on his own with help from caregivers.) He had a total meltdown this weekend when he found out that I've contacted the caregiving company to have them send the bills to me instead of him so I can pay them from the conservatorship. Now he's not speaking to me. He wants me to bring the checkbook to his house and sit and pay those bills right in front of him so he can see what I'm doing. I said 'no'. Oh, yeah, did I mention he's a bit of a control freak? I'm exhausted mentally every Saturday when I get home. Lately I have been thinking back to where we were 3 years ago. Things are definitely different. We have a geriatric psychiatrist and she has been a big help in sorting this out.
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I’m concerned when you say easily influenced. My Mum has a “friend” who always was in need of money-that’s how I found out that she was declining. Make sure your Mums finances are in order and that she can’t access too much of it at once.
Otherwise I’d only noticed a couple of odd comments now and again. Things you just brush off. In retrospect I shouldn’t have. Using incorrect words. Smoke instead of fog even when just corrected, seeing a shadow in the road in front of her house and wondering if the city is going to charge her to fill it.
Complaining about the neighbors noise and it sounds like they are tunneling towards my house!
Make sure POA and will etc are all done.
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My 87 year mom seems very similar to yours in many ways. If the behavior you mentioned has increased quite a bit since her move, I would think that the change in her living arrangements has precipitated the change in her behavior.
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My MIL took a similar path. She was able to be quite social with neighbors and friends but slowly lost the ability to organize her life. She forgot how to use the washing machine and said it was broken (it wasn't).Her reading and writing skills were the next to go. She stopped cooking and just ate snacks. She couldn't take meds on time and so on. Dementia is a loss of functioning, not just memory.
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Karen51 Nov 6, 2018
Oh yes, things are broken how could I forget that part of it! My mums stove, her kettle, etc.
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My mother clearly had dementia signs and we were clueless seeing it as "just more" of her usual unpleasant personality or behavior....but a change of environment as in visiting my sister out of state pushed it to the surface with clarity. She was far more incapable than we realized and the first signs may have been exacerbated a year earlier when she was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy. Her insane behavior of constantly setting the fridge temp to being too warm went on from before that. Look at a list of the signs that the Alzheimer's Assn provides and see how many you can easily check off. I was shocked...and then gave examples to her family MD who was someone I loved (he's since gone into the private sector). He conducted a mini-mental exam on a visit he told me not to be present at, and was shocked himself she had been covering so well. We ultimately connected with an elder law attorney to get important papers tended to, and she suggested having mom officially assessed, so we got her to a neurologist who was very laid back and conducted his exam by just chatting with us and having some forms filled out by family caregivers so it was not threatening to her. I'd be aware that maybe hearing loss could factor in. But the trouble with doing one's bills, that sort of thing...be aware...
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I suggest you take her for a neuropsycholgical examination given by a neuropsychologist, PHD
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Being more easily influenced by others is a significant sign. Also, her more frequent calls may not be a growing neediness, but instead a method of mentally steadying herself; she's noticing the "slipping", and isn't ready to admit it. She'll go to great lengths to hide it.
My mom has Parkinson's so I knew that dementia was in our future. After awhile of noticing some of the little symptoms, she had a significant downturn. Her doctor and I couldn't pin it on anything physical or her meds, so I asked for a cognitive assessment. The results were startling ... late stage Alzheimer's disease; she'd managed to hide it very well. The diagnosis explained a lot of what I had written off as part-dementia and part-she's a challenging patient. It's easy to disregard the little things as "she tired", old age and such.
Your mom may be difficult when you bring it up because (1) she's been such a vibrant woman and (2) mental decline carries a huge stigma for people her age. But, don't either of you sweep it under the rug. There are meds and therapies that slow the progression of the illness IF it is caught early. The discussion will be hard, but you'll both be better for it
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My mom is also 82. For her, dimentia is obvious because she can't remember what day it is. can't remember when she took her meds. can't remember how to give herself insulin. Worse of all, she claims my son took her jacket (doesn't know which jacket) and is angry and says no one believes her and wants to move out. then forgets all about it. then starts up again. I think you'll know it when it happens.
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Regarding her being needy, perhaps she is lonely and/or bored. Are there any activities you could help her get involved in? Is there a volunteer activity she could do? Check the local library. It is surprising how much stuff is going on at libraries these day. Mine has a lot of older people playing bridge, mahjong, doing chair yoga etc. Regarding being influenced. From my experience, decreased judgment is something that happens early in the development of dementia.

There is a short test you can try with her if you are both agreeing to it. Give her three words and ask her to repeat them to you and then remember them. Then ask her to draw a clock and put a time like 7:15 on it. (Make sure there is not an actual clock in view during the test.). Encourage her to draw a complete clock with all the numbers and the two hands. After the clock is done ask her to tell you the three words. The best result would be if she remembers all three words. If the clock is missing numbers, numbers are repeated, numbers are out of order, the hands don't
give the correct time, all of these can indicate a potential
problem. Look online to see examples of poor clock drawing. My
relative's doctor did the clock test with her and I was shocked at
how badly she did. Please note, the earlier dementia is treated, the better the treatment works. Ideally have her evaluated by a neuropsychology or neurologist.
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She should be taken to a neurologist. That specialist should be able to give her a cognitive test.
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There is a test that you can do easily at home called an MMSE (Mini Mental Status Exam) which will give you some indication but a full neurological workup is much better. I was noticing a similar decline with my Mom so I started doing the MMSE with her periodically. She did OK on many of the answers but could never remember the three words that she was told a few minutes before. Her regular neurologist did the same test in the office getting similar results. But I asked that we have a full neurological test done by a geriatric neurologist because of the things I had noticed. It was an eye opener and very sad to hear what he had to say. But at least we knew what we were dealing with. With that type of test (which takes about 2 hours), it is almost impossible to mask what is going on. To the average person, my Mom seems like she is completely fine as she is very good at hiding her issues. But this test will not only show the extent of memory loss but the ability to problem solve. The doctor may also give you a diagnosis for what type of dementia she has, if any abnormalities show up in the results. It's been 1 1/2 yrs since that test and the neurologist was spot on with his assessment of my Mom.
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