The holiday season is known as a time when families come together to celebrate. In many cases, it can be the first time family members have seen each other in months. Because of this, it may also be the first time families notice memory or behavior changes in their older loved ones.
“It’s relatively common for people to experience some forgetfulness as they age. But, if you notice behavior such as personality changes, confusion or significant memory loss, you may be noticing the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” says Amanda Nobrega, interim executive director and director of programs at the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Signs that something may be wrong include forgetting how to make a favorite recipe or being uncertain about what day it is. Loved ones may also notice the person isn’t taking good care of themselves or their home or that they are more irritated or short-tempered than normal. Other signs can include:
• Repeating themselves
• Difficulty completely familiar tasks
• Getting lost in their own neighborhood
• Confusion with times, days or places
• Personality changes
“If you notice one or more of these changes in your loved one, it can be upsetting and you may not know what to do,” Nobrega says. “It’s natural to feel nervous discussing these changes with family members, but these health concerns should be evaluated by a doctor. We know that the earlier Alzheimer’s or dementia is diagnosed, the more access a person has to treatment options, including clinical drug trials, and in planning for their future.”
Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at alz.org/10signs for a list of common early signs of Alzheimer’s and how to differentiate them from normal signs of aging. Help is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including the holidays) at the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline at 800-272-3900, where experts and master’s-level clinicians can offer helpful information and support.