Visiting with relatives over the holidays may raise questions about the physical and cognitive health of family members. Although some change in cognitive ability can occur with age, serious memory problems are not a part of normal aging. Recognizing the difference between normal aging and cognitive impairment can help identify when it may be time to see a doctor.
The Alzheimer’s Association Western New York Chapter expects to see a rise in calls to its 24-hour helpline (800-272-3900) during and after the holiday season when people visit with friends and family whom they may not see as frequently during the year. “The 10 Warning Signs are a good place to start when trying to decide if you should talk to your doctor about the changes you are noticing in yourself or a loved one,” says Chapter Program Director Rachel Rotach.
There can be other explanations for cognitive impairments, so it is always best to see a physician if any of these 10 warning signs is apparent:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life: Forgetting recently learned information, forgetting important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over or relying on memory aides.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems: Changes in the ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers, or trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks: Driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
- Confusion with time or place: People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time or forget where they are or how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships: Difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing: Trouble following or joining a conversation or stopping in the middle of a conversation and not being able to continue, repetitive comments, struggles with vocabulary.
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps: Putting things in unusual places, such as ice cream in the medicine cabinet or being unable to trace steps to find a misplaced object and accusing someone of taking it.
- Decreased or poor judgment: Changes in judgment or decision-making, especially when dealing with money; inattention to personal care and grooming.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities: Refraining from favorite hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.
- Changes in mood and personality: Confusion, suspicion, depression, fear, anxiety or irritability may occur without apparent cause.
The WNY Chapter offers a free Know the 10 Warning Signs education program several times every month across the region. You can attend this class at these locations over the next several weeks:
January 14 – Southern Tier Health Care System, Olean (Cattaraugus County)
January 15 – Orleans County YMCA, Medina (Orleans County)
January 21 – The Manor House, Batavia (Genesee County)
February 5 – Frank E Merriweather Library, Buffalo (Erie County)
February 6 – Stella Niagara (Niagara County)
February 18 – Park United Methodist Church, Sinclairville (Chautauqua County)
For additional information, please call the WNY Chapter office between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 626-0600.
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is an important step in getting appropriate treatment, care and support services. The Alzheimer’s Association website lists resources for those with dementia, their families, and their caregivers (alz.org/WNY) and help is always available via the toll-free Helpline phone number: 800-272-3900. That number is available 24/7 to answer questions and provide information about local resources for those living with dementia and their care partners.