Be Mindful of Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s During Holidays

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many families to celebrate the holidays remotely because of public health concerns. As we return to more in-person celebrations this year, cognitive or memory changes in an elderly loved ones may be alarming and concerning.

Visiting aging loved ones after being apart for so long might lead to the realization of changes in behavior, physical health and new expressions of memory loss or cognitive decline. When people start to notice these changes, there can be a variety of responses and moments of uncertainty. Denial that anything unusual is happening can be tempting, and families often do not know where to turn.

As our loved ones age, we often attribute memory loss to a normal part of aging, although some behaviors or signs of cognitive decline may result from something more severe.

“Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It is a progressive disease, in which the symptoms gradually worsen over time,” said Meg Boyce, Vice President for Programs and Services at the Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter. “Ignoring signs of cognitive impairment out of fear or denial can lead to greater heartache and the possible worsening of the situation.”

The Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter encourages families to keep the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s in mind:
• Memory changes that disrupts 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
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• New problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps, such as putting keys in the
• Decreased or poor judgment, such as giving large sums of money to telemarketers
• Withdrawal from work or social activities, and forgetting how to work on a favorite hobby
• Changes in mood and personality, such as becoming angry or fearful for seemingly no reason

“The holidays revolve around traditions, so if you are seeing someone struggling with a familiar task, it’s important to reach out to their healthcare providers,” Boyce said. “Early diagnosis is crucial, as it gives the person living with the disease and their family more time to plan for the future, as well as the opportunity take advantage of some drugs that can help manage symptoms in the early stage.

The Alzheimer’s Association typically sees the number of calls to its 24-hour Helpline(800.272.3900) increase during and after the holidays when people visiting with friends and family whom they haven’t seen in a while become aware that something is different. The 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 free education programs and personalized family care consultations,” Boyce said.

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