During holidays, it’s common tradition to travel across state or international borders to visit family we don’t see everyday. Whether we live near or far from our loved ones, holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah are the time of year to catch up with those we may not have visited throughout the year.
When we spend time with our loved ones on a regular, ongoing basis, we may notice the signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease sooner than those seeing relatives a handful of times per year. The holidays present an ideal opportunity to spend ongoing time around one’s family, creating a better look at their thoughts and patterns of behavior.
During the holidays, you may start to notice small changes in your loved one’s behavior that weren’t present the year before -- in fact, the Alzheimer’s Association reported a 34% increase in reports received through their hotline during the holiday season of 2007 as compared to the rest of the year.
The Alzheimer’s Association believes it is important families know which signs to look for so they can catch the progression of dementia as early as possible. This holiday season, consider paying attention to the following 5 signs that your loved one may have dementia:
What are the Early Signs of Dementia?
1. Memory Loss
The hallmark symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss; specifically, short-term memory loss. Usually the first symptom noticed, memory loss can go virtually unnoticed until patterns begin, as many people expect some cognitive decline with age. While forgetting a few things here and there is normal, pay attention to the types of forgetfulness you see -- some patterns are indications of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It isn’t necessarily cause for concern if your loved one’s memory loss is limited to forgetting appointments or friend’s names, for example.
2. Problems with Language
When a person begins to develop memory loss, he or she may forget the word for what they are trying to say, complicating their conversations and their writing. For example, they may ask for ‘that thing for the door’ when trying to locate their keys.
3. Misplacing Things
We all place things where we forget them every so often -- it’s part of being human. But when a person lives with a memory-related condition like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, he or she may misplace household items in unexpected places -- like a box of oatmeal in the dishwasher, or a remote control in the refrigerator. Your loved one misplacing something every so often isn’t cause for alarm, but if you notice a pattern or the belongings seem particularly out of place, it could be a symptom of memory loss.
4. Changes in Mood or Behavior
While dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are commonly associated with memory loss, many families are unaware that sudden changes in a person’s moods and reactions may be an indication. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may cause a person to experience extreme moods, including sadness and anger. They may feel confused, making their moods more intense and unpredictable as they notice changes in their memory or thinking.
5. Loss of Initiative
When a person begins to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, he or she may lose their drive to start activities or participate in hobbies. Instead, he or she may sit in front of the TV for hours, becoming stubborn when someone suggests a more involved activity.
If you believe your loved one is showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to take action quickly, but one step at a time. Be tactful as you approach a diagnosis, as having dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can cause extreme emotional distress; many people resist being diagnosed or treated to avoid the ‘reality of it’.
We offer memory care services at many Pacifica Senior Living communities, creating a safe and comfortable home environment specially designed for residents navigating life with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. We assess each memory care resident to identify his or her strengths and challenges, creating a customized service plan accordingly. To learn more about our memory care services, reach out to us or schedule a personalized tour of one of our communities.