With our busy work week and long hours, the holiday season is a good time to relax and gather with friends and family. For many of us, family traditions are important. For some of us, a holiday gathering may be the first time we see a loved one experiencing cognitive challenges with memory, wayfinding, or concentration. This shows up in different ways: a loved one is unable to find the bathroom in a familiar place or he/she uses a spoon when they should have been using a fork. In many cases, the stress of the holiday season may make it a difficult time to think or perform tasks; however, these things may be the first signs of dementia. Keep an eye out for behaviors that you would be considered not typical for that person. An example of this may be that they were always the life of the party but now they are sitting quietly and not engaging in conversation.
Some things to look for:
- Having difficulty performing tasks that they have done their whole lives – washing dishes, eating, getting dressed, etc.
- Problems with word finding or using words that are out of context
- Disorientation: not knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place. Disorientation is very common for those with memory loss.
- Poor judgment — putting trash in the freezer, driving a car with slippers and no glasses, etc.
- A change in appearance — for many people with dementia Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) may become more difficult. This often results in a disheveled or unkempt look (dirty clothes, unclean hair, etc.)
- Some of the first signs of memory loss may be a changes in mood, behavior, or personally.
- Compulsive behaviors –compulsiveness or fixation on a topic are often a sign of changes in the brain. A person with dementia may become fixated on folding a napkin or reorganizing the silverware drawer repeatedly.
- Misplacing things — it is common for us to misplace things from time to time; however, it is not common to find items in unusual places (e.g., keys in the refrigerator, TV remote in the trash, etc.)
- Loss of ambition — for some people when they know something is not right they will start to undergo depression or have an inhibition to do the things they have always loved.
What to do if you notice some of these signs.
- Talk to your loved one and make sure they are okay
- Visit your loved one after the holiday gathering or at a different time. For some people, too much stimulation may be overwhelming and will result in the inability to think or concentrate. A one-on-one setting may be more appropriate to look for these signs.
- Suggest that he/she sees a doctor, medical professional, or specialist
- Look for resources in your area for help and support
- Take part in a Memory Screening (Complementary Memory Screenings at all CERTUS locations. For more information contact us at 407-757-7597)
By Joshua Freitas, M.Ed., BC-DEd, CAEd (Vice President of Program Development); Theodosia Heiserman, DP-NC (Resident Engagement Director | CERTUS at Mount Dora); & Andrea Silvey, ADC-MC, DP-NC (Resident Engagement Director | CERTUS at Orange City
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