As families return to in-person holiday gatherings after lengthy delays caused by the pandemic, cognitive changes in an elderly loved one may be alarmingly apparent. Visiting with parents and grandparents after being apart for possibly longer than a year may lead to the worrisome discovery that mom or grandad have undergone changes that are impacting their physical condition or thinking skills.
The Alzheimer’s Association generally sees the number of calls to its 24-hour helpline (800-272-3900) swell during and after the holidays, when people visiting with friends and family whom they may not have seen since the last gathering become aware that something is not quite right.
“Our free helpline is staffed around the clock to ensure that people looking for answers have somewhere to turn,” said WNY Chapter Executive Director Jill Horner, M. Ed. “If mom seems distracted or unable to follow conversation, or if dad can’t seem to remember where to put dirty dishes, the realization that something is ‘off’ can be quite startling, especially after being apart for an extended period of time,” said Horner. Those “a-hah” moments usually lead to a realization that a professional assessment should be scheduled, and to a great deal of questions. The Association’s Helpline is an ideal place to find answers and resources for additional assistance. “Helpline calls often lead to local referrals to our Chapter for additional resources such as education programs and care consultations,” says Horner.
Ignoring indications of cognitive impairment out of fear or denial can lead to greater heartache down the road, and the possible worsening of the situation. The Alzheimer’s Association has compiled a list of 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s, which include:
• Memory changes that disrupt daily life, such as forgetting important events
• Challenges in planning or solving problems, such as keeping track of monthly bills
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to routine places
• Confusion with time or place, such as the date
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, such as reading
• New problems with words in speaking or writing, such as inappropriate words
• Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps, such as putting ice cream in the medicine cabinet
• Decreased or poor judgment, such as giving large sums of money to telemarketers
• Withdrawal from work or social activities, such as forgetting how to finish a favorite hobby
• Changes in mood and personality, such as becoming angry or fearful
The 24-hour helpline can also provide help for caregivers, such as a listing of programs that offer care and socialization services. All calls to 800-272-3900 are free and confidential.