Holiday Visits with Aging Parents can Lead to the Unexpected

By Debbie Welker, health services administrator 

Debbie Welker, Health Services Administrator

Debbie Welker, health services administrator

The upcoming holiday season means celebrating joy with the people we cherish. Our festive gatherings can also be an opportune time for family members to notice troubling signs of aging in their parents or grandparents. Sadly, an American develops Alzheimer’s disease every 68 seconds, affecting nearly one in nine adults over the age of 65.

In fact, the U.S. population is gradually aging, and since the risk for Alzheimer’s increases with age, Ohio is estimated to reach 250,000 Alzheimer’s cases by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org).

Although there is currently no cure, no prevention and no way to slow down the disease, early detection can impact quality of life. As families return home for the holidays, or visit parents and grandparents out-of-town, caretakers and adult children should be vigilant of the 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We encourage you to review the following warning signs:

  1. Be aware of warning signs that disrupt daily life, such as: Late notices from utility companies or other monthly recurring bills stacking up.
  2. Forgetting a familiar family recipe could be a sign of challenges in planning or problem solving.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks, like getting to a family member’s house.
  4. Confusion with time or place, such as: If they don’t understand that Thanksgiving dinner is happening or forget how they got to dinner.
  5. Difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color contrast. This shouldn’t be confused with typical age-related vision changes related to cataracts.
  6. Repeating himself or herself, or forgetting what they were talking about in the middle of conversation.
  7. Misplacing everyday items in unusual places.
  8. Poor judgment in dealing with money or paying less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
  9. Withdrawal from social situations, like avoiding holiday celebrations altogether.
  10. Clear signs of anxiety, urgency, agitation, paranoia or appearing confused about his or her surroundings.

If you notice a loved one experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to encourage them to see a doctor immediately. Once signs of dementia are detected, a complete medical and neuropsychological evaluation is needed. Determining the severity of the condition is critical for future treatment.

The holidays are a special time for families to come together. We encourage you to also use it as a time to check-in on aging loved ones and assess if they may need help. It could be the best holiday gift you give.

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