Use the Holidays to Look for Signs of Memory Loss

William Mick | Oct 15, 2018 | Caregiver Support

We come together during holidays. It's a natural time for family gatherings, a chance to catch up with friends and relatives who you haven't seen for a while. It also provides an opportunity to assess changes in the cognitive health of loved ones, an important step in early intervention and developing potential care strategies.

Have you noticed any of these differences in behavior?

There are differences between the memory lapses that can occur with normal aging and those behaviors that signal more serious cognitive issues. The Alzheimer's Association of America recommends using family gatherings like those around the holidays to observe those you might not see regularly and check for any telltale signs of serious memory impairment.

Here are the Alzheimer's Association's 10 warning signs to look for in parents, grandparents or others in your circle of family and friends:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.

This would include forgetting important dates, events or people's names.

2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.

Is grandma having trouble with the steps in a recipe? Did dad forget to pay an important bill on time? An inability to plan or think a few steps ahead can be an early sign of cognitive decline.

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks.

We’ve all been frustrated by the remote control on occasion, but forgetting how to use the microwave is different. Or having problems with the rules of a game the family has played for years. When previously simple tasks have become an issue for someone, it's time to take notice.

4. Confusion with time or place.

Is a relative confused about why they are at a family event or how they got there? Is someone getting lost more often? A decline in brain health is often accompanied by losing track of time and place.

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.

A decline in visual acuity may not be due to simple aging, especially when one has problems with depth perception, colors and properly identifying common objects.

6. New problems with words in speaking and writing.

During conversations with older adults, are they repeating themselves, losing track of the topic or struggling with finding the right words? These are symptoms worth talking about.

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.

Are odd things turning up in the cupboard or the silverware drawer? Is a relative misplacing items, unable to retrace steps to find them, and perhaps even making accusations that the items were stolen?

8. Decreased or poor judgment.

Poor decision-making can encompass anything from lapses in hygiene to falling prey to financial schemes. If a relative has acted strangely in terms of judgment or control, it could be an indication of dementia-related changes.

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.

Has a social butterfly become a hermit? Are long-time hobbies or other pastimes no longer being pursued? Introversion and withdrawal are outward signs of possibly serious internal issues.

10. Changes in mood and personality.

This may be one of the more heartbreaking signs, as a person you've known for years suddenly seems hostile, confused, anxious or easily upset at the slightest change in routine. These changes in mood call for understanding and patience --- and a recognition that they could be signs of a disease of the mind.

The one positive aspect of recognizing signs of decline in a loved one is that it affords the possibility of early intervention in obtaining treatment, care and support. So take steps to help the person see their physician as soon as possible for a diagnosis. The resulting care plan will mean the family can face the future knowing all of their options.

References:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs

https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/early-warning-signs

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/can-you-recognize-the-warning-signs-of-alzheimers-disease

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