Blog & Press

Spotting early signs of dementia in the elderly

People are living longer, and that’s a blessing for many of us.

We all hope for a long life for ourselves and our families. However, that refers to a life with dignity and independence. Aging Advocates CNY work year-round to make that possible. Melissa Murphy is is the founder and CEO. Amberly Reinertsen is the executive director. Both are certified dementia practitioners.

Dementia is the umbrella term for disorders affecting the brain and impact on memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. Alzheimer’s is the most common of these disorders.

Early warning signs of dementia include changes in memory and daily behaviors. For example, getting lost or the inability to manage daily tasks. Change in mood can also be common.

The most important thing is to go to your medical provider if these symptoms are being exhibited.

The first thing to do is to rule out a possible infection, which may cause similar symptoms. Something as simple as a urinary tract infection can greatly affect the behaviors of an elderly person.

Knowing yourself or your loved one is key. If something feels off, it’s critical to visit a medical provider to see what’s going on.

There will be a walk to end Alzheimer’s on Sept. 25 at the SRC Arena at 11 a.m.

Senior Living Misconceptions:

“It’s a scary hospital-like nursing home”
Not the “nursing home” you remember your grandparents in.

Nowadays we have several different types of senior living communities that don’t resemble a nursing home at all.
In fact, many seniors can avoid a nursing home all together and live in a community with a home like environment.


“It’s a prison and I’ll never be able to leave!”
Although some communities have restriction on their residents leaving due to medical needs, the majority of residents are able to come and go safely and independently as they please! In fact, many residents still drive and lead active lives.


“If I have dementia they will lock me up and drug me!”
Firstly, a cognitive impairment does not mean a secured memory care unity is automatically needed. Secondly, your doctor is the only one prescribing your medication- not the community.  Over half of many assisted living residents have some type of a cognitive impairment. This may mean they simply are safer living in an environment where they aren’t always alone, or benefit from some minor assistance. In fact, many folks are living actively with a cognitive impairment and you would never even know it!


“Medicare will pay for my community”
False. Medicare covers hospital and short term rehab stays, but unfortunately not senior living communities. Residents need to pay either privately or with Medicaid which is based on asset amounts. There’s also a benefit through the VA for veteran’s OR their surviving spouse who served during active war time, to help cover the cost. Lastly, if you have a long term care insurance policy, you may be able to utilize that for payment as well.


“My friend knows the best community because her mother was there 15 years ago”
Be careful when taking advice from your well-meaning friends. A community is only as good as their current management and caregivers, and they change regularly.
In fact, people have different experiences even within the same community! Your loved one has unique needs, so the best option for one individual may not be best for another. Consult with a professional who understands your loved ones needs and which communities they may be most appropriate for AND is familiar with them currently.

The Full Story Behind The Family In Our Commercial…

This case is probably very relatable to many families, so we really wanted to share more than 30 seconds. This family reached out to Aging Advocates CNY last summer after their mom had been living with them for 8 months and realizing they could use some professional help. Mom lost her husband (they were living in Buffalo) which is what sparked the move to Syracuse with her son and daughter in law. Also, like many couples, they both had some medical need for assistance but were able to lean on each other and manage, but once she became a widow, she was unsafe alone.

The son was very apprehensive to the idea of his beloved mother moving to what he referred to as a “nursing home.” He had terrible memories of these sterile facilities from growing up, and did not want that for his mom. The first thing we were able to do was simply educate him on the various levels of care and types of senior communities that are a far cry from his “nursing home” vision. We did a series of interviews to gather information on what types of daily tasks mom could do independently and what she needed assistance with. We were able to get to know her personality- likes and dislikes and get a sense of who she was and who she is know (both lovely). We provided the family with recommendations for assistance to keep her in the home as well as a few communities we felt would be a good fit for her. The in home recommendations included enrolling in services with AURORA of CNY for her vision impairment, options for in home physical therapy, senior day centers, and caregivers for respite so they could have a date night!

After determining she was likely appropriate for assisted living (not memory care or skilled nursing) based on her current physical and cognitive condition, we named three communities for consideration. *Please note we are not diagnosing, we are gathering the information and advising based on what levels of care the communities are licensed for. Each community does their own intake assessment in conjunction with the client’s physician to determine their appropriateness.

The family picked two of the three communities in which we toured together, which they found very eye opening. The communities recommended were not only able to meet their mother’s needs but looked nothing like the nursing homes the son was worried about. The Aging Advocates team member was able to ask relevant questions to the community representative and help guide the family on the pros and cons. *We always try to set REALISTIC expectations. No community or service will be perfect, but we try to prioritize based on the client’s specific situation.

The family ended up choosing a community and made the difficult decision to move mom to her next chapter of life.  In this case, the transition was without a doubt harder on the family than the older adult themselves. Also, very common for families to feel guilt and worry about such a big transition. We followed up with the family nearly 1 year later, and this “commercial” is a real testimony to her outcome. This was not scripted or steered in any way. They were simply asked “what was your experience with Aging Advocates?” To hear that our client is not only doing well, but her quality of life despite her circumstances has IMPROVED was the best outcome we could have hoped for. THIS is why we do what we do. We hope you will share with anyone considering any senior care options- “the conversation starts here.” J

The Conversation Starts Here

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