Family health

Crucial Time For Family Health Observations

Signs of dementia often show themselves during the holidays

The holiday season is upon us, a time for family gatherings, sharing laughter, and creating memories. However, for many of us, especially those who haven't seen our aging parents in a while, it's also an opportunity to subtly assess their well-being. While we all hope for the best, the reality is that conditions like dementia can progress rapidly, often catching families off guard. So, as you're home this holiday season, here are some signs to watch for, and how to approach this sensitive topic. 

Changes in Memory and Thinking 

One of the earliest sigfamily memoryns of dementia is changes in memory, particularly short-term memory. This might manifest in subtle ways - perhaps Mom forgets what she went into a room to get, or she repeats the same question within a short period. While we all have moments of forgetfulness, consistent patterns are worth noting. 

It's also important to observe any changes in thinking skills. Is Dad having trouble following along with a game that he's always loved? Does Mom struggle with tasks that require planning or problem-solving, like organizing a holiday meal? These might be signs that their cognitive abilities are changing. 

Remember, these changes can be subtle. The key is to look for differences from their usual behavior and abilities, not just occasional slip-ups. 

Mood Swings and Personality Shifts 

Dementia can also lead to changes in mood and personality. If you notice that Dad, who has always been easy-going, now gets easily upset or agitated, it could be a sign of changes in his brain health. Depression is common in early dementia, and it can look different in older adults - less sadness, more fatigue, irritability, or loss of interest in activities. 

You might also notice changes in their social behaviors. Is Mom withdrawing from conversations? Is Dad less interested in his usual hobbies or social activities? These changes can be particularly noticeable during the holidays when families gather and social interactions are at their peak. 

Struggling with Familiar Tasks 

Another red flag is difficulty with everyday tasks. This isn’t just about forgetting where the Christmas ornaments are stored; it’s about struggles with managing tasks that used to be second nature. Are bills piling up because they forgot to pay them? Is the house unusually disorganized? Are they having trouble following a favorite recipe? 

These changes can often be mistaken for normal aging, but it's crucial to differentiate. We all may walk into a room and forget why we’re there, but with dementia, this becomes more pronounced and frequent, significantly impacting daily functioning. 

Communication Hurdles 

Communication issues are also a telltale sign of dementia. This can range from struggling to find the right word to mixing up simple terms. If Dad refers to the mailbox as "that box where letters sleep," it might be more than just a quirky turn of phrase. 

Listen also for changes in the flow of conversation. Are they able to follow along, or do they seem lost? Do they repeat themselves or lose their train of thought? These could be signs that communicating is becoming more challenging for them. 

Approaching the Conversation family health

If you notice these signs, it's essential to approach the topic sensitively. This conversation is best had in a familiar, non-threatening environment. Start by expressing your love and concern, not your fears. Use 'I' statements, like 'I've noticed that...' to make it less accusative. 

Remember, this is not about diagnosing your parents - it's about starting a dialogue that can lead to professional evaluation and support. Encourage them to see a doctor for a check-up, framing it as a routine health maintenance rather than a response to your observations. 

What are the next Steps?

The holidays are a time for joy, but also a time for care and attention, especially towards our aging loved ones. While it's a delicate balance between enjoying family time and being observant, it's a crucial one. 

If you think your parent needs more care than they have now, and they would prefer to stay out of a nursing home, there are options available. Reach out to us to learn more, or download our FREE guide to paying for long-term care here. 

Early detection of dementia can make a significant difference in management and future planning, including estate planning, which is where professionals like me come in. Let’s use this holiday season not just for celebration, but also for meaningful connection and gentle vigilance. 

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