Caring for elderly family members with signs of dementia calls for difficult decisions

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — An 83-year-old woman will enjoy being home in Arkansas on Friday evening after getting lost on a road trip that ended in the Tennessee Valley. Her family tells WHNT News 19 the woman doesn’t have dementia, but they plan to look at options for the next chapter of her life.

We met Robert Lafort, a caregiver from Jacksonville, Arkansas, at a motel in Hartselle. Lafort made the trip because his aunt, Mary Vadney, needed help. Vadney told WHNT News 19 she wanted to take a road trip from her Arkansas home but lost her way, winding up at the Jet Pep gas station on Highway 31.

“I told her next time she goes on vacation, ask me to go with her,” Lafort said.

Thankfully a good samaritan came along. Lafort said his aunt doesn’t take any medication, and doesn’t have an official diagnosis, but he’s worried about signs of dementia.

“I don’t want her out there and having an accident, and causing somebody to lose their life because of her,” Lafort said.

Alzheimers.org reports confusion with time or place is one of the most common warning signs of dementia-related conditions. Sometimes a person may forget where they are or how they got there.

“They wake up in a different mood, different place every day,” Lafort said about his experience with caring for his family members.

Signs of dementia can mean difficult choices on the horizon; discussions like when to take the car keys and when to begin professional care.

“It’s not going to be easy and no one likes to lose their independence,” Lafort empathized.

The Alzheimer’s Association encourages families to start talking to loved ones early and begin planning for the future – legal, financial and long-term care.

“Start looking into places that can fulfill her needs that she can be happy with,” Lafort said of planning for his aunt’s future. “It’s basically the quality of life.”

As for the rest of us, we can keep an eye out for people, just like Vadney, who need our help.

“Pay attention to somebody, if something doesn’t look right or sound right, or seem right, take a minute and just ask,” Kelley Cooper, the woman who stopped to help Vadney, said.