What are my parent's housing options if my mother does not pass a cognitive screening test?

2 answers | Last updated: Nov 21, 2016
Renees asked...

My parents are on a waiting list for a continuing care facility, but in the year that they've been waiting, my mother's memory has deteriorated substantially. Although she has not been diagnosed with dementia, I'm afraid that she won't pass a cognitive screening test. What happens if she fails the test, and what are their options for continuing to live together?

Expert Answers

Nan Hayes is founder of MoveSeniors.com, the national resource network of Certified Relocation and Transition Specialists for seniors, and President of RightSized Living, a senior home transition service in Illinois.

Since other factors such as stress or depression may cause symptoms of memory loss it is important that your mother makes time for the assessment. Your family needs to understand both her current and future health care requirements in order to make the best and most cost-effective choice for  long term housing and care. If it is determined that she suffers from a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, your father will also need appropriate resources to help him in his role as caregiver. You will find you have several care options depending on diagnosis and the progression of the disease. Home care or some assisted living settings may make it possible for you parents to live together while receiving the support they need. The continuing care community you have already looked into will most likely have alternatives to care. The Alzheimer’s Association website has a great deal of resources and information that will be very valuable to you as you begin to address these concerns with your parents.

Community Answers

Jennifer meagher rn answered...

Hi Renees,

I am a geriatric care manager and I also went through 12 years of dementia with my wonderful mother. It is really hard, isn't it? 

 Nan is right on the money, but I'd like to add my two cents too. Your mother should be checked for signs of: urinary track infection or other infection (this may be dental as well...) She should be checked for unresolved pain. If she has arthritis, for example, she may need to be on medication or stronger medication. Many doctors will allow a trial period to see if the medication helps. Some older adults aren't clear on the level of their pain, and it shows in confusion rather than a grimace or pain recognition. And as Nan said, It can also be depression or other stressors. It could also be that she is developing dementia, but I always look at these other options first.  

Go with your mom to her next doctor appointment and talk openly and lovingly about her memory. Write down all your questions so you don't forget.

If she has dementia, or if it is a complicated situation, you might choose to bring in a geriatric care manager to help  you sort it all out and to learn about your choices. You might also choose to have your mom see a consultant doctor who specializes in evaluations on people who exhibit your mom's symptoms. Her primary doctor should know who is available in your community, as will your local Alzheimer Association.

Good luck