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The holiday season is a time for families to gather and celebrate all they share in common. For many of us, the holidays are also the one opportunity all year to visit with multiple generations of loved ones. As your family gathers this season, we encourage you to pay special attention to the elders in your family.
The busy holidays can often be a time of stress and loneliness for seniors, especially those dealing with early cognitive impairment and memory loss. How do you know if your father, grandmother, or favorite aunt is overwhelmed from all of the festivities or experiencing something more serious, such as early dementia? You may start by looking for these 10 signs adapted from the Alzheimer’s Association.
Post-it notes make for great reminders, but they can also be a sign of memory loss. Elders with early dementia often need help remembering to do everyday things—like eat, bathe, and take their medication—and will leave reminders all through the house. When this type of memory loss disrupts daily life, it may be time to consult with a physician who specializes in the diagnosis of dementia.
For 55 years, Aunt Jean has been making her “famous” gingerbread Christmas cookies. This year, though, something about the way they taste isn’t quite right. When asked, Aunt Jean acknowledges that she’s forgotten how to make her cherished treat and may have accidentally substituted salt for sugar. Elders experiencing dementia often face challenges in planning or solving problems they once handled with ease, such as following recipes or paying monthly bills. Or, it may take them much longer than before to complete these once-familiar tasks.
You mother’s Christmas gifts were once a work of art. Each package was expertly wrapped and accented with an elaborate bow or ribbon. In recent years, however, her gifts look as though your 7-year-old son may have wrapped them. People suffering memory loss often have difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure. Typical symptoms can include new difficulty driving a car (and arriving where they intended) and balancing a checkbook. You may notice that your loved one shies away from these types of behaviors as they become increasingly difficult.
Here’s a common scenario: You’re hosting Christmas dinner and your grandfather or mother has called the past three nights wondering if the event is that day. Or, once they arrive at your home, they forget how they got there. These types of confusion with time or place are often associated with dementia. Of course, everyone is forgetful once in a while, but repeated lapses in memory should be a cause for concern.
Alzheimer’s, unfortunately, can lead to hallucinations. More common, though, are vision-related problems. Elders experiencing memory loss often develop trouble understanding visual images and spatial distances, which can make it difficult to read, determine color, and judge distances from behind the wheel of a car.
For years, your Great Uncle Ted was the life of the party, entertaining everyone at the table with his jokes, dry wit, and embellished tales. Now, he sits quietly through Christmas dinner. When he’s prodded to join the conversation, he often uses the wrong words or stops mid-thought and can’t finish. While many of us lose some vocabulary as we age, new and profound problems with words in speaking or writing is often associated with dementia.
For elders living with cognitive impairment, misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps can be an everyday occurrence. This is most common with purses, wallets, or other things of value, like Christmas gifts and presents. Unfortunately, those living with memory loss often become convinced that someone stole the items they’ve misplaced.
The holidays are a season of joyful giving, but for those with dementia, it can be difficult to know what is appropriate to give and to whom. Putting a few dollars into the bell ringer’s pail this season is one thing; handing over hundreds of dollars to a telemarketer is another. Decreased or poor judgment, particularly when it comes to handling their money, is often a tell-tale sign of memory loss.
Sadly, people living with memory loss often exhibit a withdrawal from work or social activities they once enjoyed. This might reveal itself in someone showing little interest in a sport or team they used to follow or a hobby or activity they once loved. So, if Grandpa suddenly loses all interest in his once-cherished basketball team, there may be more to it than the team slipping from its No.1 ranking.
Memory loss can lead to dramatic changes in mood or personality. Often, people experiencing dementia feel anxious, confused, depressed, and fearful. These feelings manifest when the person is outside his or her comfort zone. If your once docile and loving grandmother lashes out at the grandkids this holiday, it’s hopefully because she’s just having bad day. If it continues at Easter and beyond, it could be a sign of the onset of dementia.
If you notice signs of memory loss or dementia in a loved one this holiday season and don’t know where to turn, we are here to help. While most senior living communities focus on placing elders either in memory care or assisted living, Provision Living Senior Communities sees things differently. Our cohesive approach to elder care supports the wellbeing of the whole person and recognizes that everyone experiences a degree of cognitive change as they age.
For some, it may just be a mild slowing down. For others, it may take on a more acute form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Whatever the case, at Provision Living believe in providing an environment that will encourage our residents to be engaged and active, as well as connected to their families and the greater community.
For more on our innovative take on elder care (or for other dementia warning signs you might be on the lookout for this holiday), talk with one of our care consultants today.
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