Changes in the home environment offer clues that something is amiss. The following situations indicate a need for quick intervention.

1. Suddenly writing checks for large amounts to unknown persons/unusual banking practices. People with cognitive impairment are particularly susceptible to phone scams. Monitor check registers and/or online banking to catch problems quickly. Better yet, assist with paying bills. Best, set up auto payments directly.

2. Uncharacteristic change in home cleanliness and order. People with dementia can become easily overwhelmed–even when someone has run a household for 50+ years. One day, it just becomes too much to keep track of the yard man, the laundry, and the dishes, let alone dusting and vacuuming.

3. Collecting unnecessary items, eg, tv dinner containers, newspapers, old mail. Collecting tv dinner containers, plastic bags, and the like is not uncommon for people who grew up during the Depression. However, if this is a change, or junk mail and solicitations are now in the “keeper” pile, there’s a problem.

4. Utilities cut off/unpaid bills–even though money is available. This too falls in the “overwhelm” category, and can be a good segue into helping out with the checkbook and getting bills set up on auto pay.

5. Sudden increase in magazine subscriptions, mail-in offers, Franklin Mint collectibles, sweepstakes. This was one of the first clues we had in my family about my grandma Anna. It eventually came out that she was certain “the contest people” were watching her and therefore had to keep ordering, as well as save all the magazines. My grandpa had a shed full of magazines and was $30,000 down before he eliminated Anna’s access to the bank accounts.

If you’re noticing these signs, the person with dementia needs additional help and supervision. Home care is a great way to go about this: you get a break, and your loved one gets a new companion. Plus, you get to switch back to your familial role instead of being the bad guy.

Yesterday, we covered Safety Awareness & Impaired Judgment. Tomorrow, we’ll look at behavioral changes. Meantime, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Christy Turner is the founder of CTC Dementia Care Management, creator of the program What To Do When Your Loved One Has Dementia, and has enjoyed the privilege of working with over 900 people living with dementia and their families. Learn more about her here, more about CTC’s services here, or check out upcoming events here.