Holidays: Perfect Time to Observe Elders for Dementia

Jacqueline Marcell Health Guide
  • Since one out of every ten persons by the age of 65 gets some form of dementia (Alzheimer’s being just one type), and nearly one out of every two by the age of 85 is afflicted, a watchful eye toward the signs of emerging dementia is important.

    The holidays offer a great opportunity to observe loved ones for the earliest signs, which are statistically ignored for about four years. The big point is: if dementia is diagnosed early, treatments can slow the progression and delay full-time care.

    Simply print out the Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s from my website and study them. Then fold them up and take them with you when you visit loved ones over the holidays. Also take a little spiral notebook and discreetly keep track of ANY behaviors that seem even slightly illogical or irrational. Record little odd behaviors that previously you’d just chalk up to your loved one getting older and aging. And every time you hear a nervous gallows laugh when someone has a "senior moment," go in the bathroom and jot it down-even on yourself!
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    Had I only understood the warning signs of dementia and knew how to watch for them, I could have saved myself the most horrible year of my life, endless rivers of tears–not to mention a small fortune.

    WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

    -Notice if your father often answers questions directed to your mother, which is common–because he is worried she is slipping mentally and he doesn’t want anyone to know. His fear is that she will be taken away from him.

    -Watch for things that are misplaced in odd places. It isn’t when your dad loses his keys more often–it is when you find the keys in the microwave or someplace he would have normally never put them.

    -Try to get a peek at the checkbook and credit card statements to see if the same bill has been paid several times or not at all, and if it seems unusually messy with errors. Look for unusual charges.

    -Notice if there is a lot of mail that hasn’t been tended to, disorganized or unopened.

    -Observe if cleanliness and organizational levels are going downhill in the home.

    -Check for personal hygiene.

    -Look in the pantry and refrigerator for out-of-date and spoiled foods.

    -See if medications are organized properly or if they seem to be mixed up.

    -Observe: mobility, balance, sight, hearing, reflexes, pain, depression, energy.

    -Notice if the right words can’t be found more than usual, with wrong words being substituted in sentences, and if handwriting is getting worse and typically smaller.

    -Be aware if you are asked the same question more than a couple times in a short period of time. Instead of answering again, turn the question around and ask the question yourself. If your elder knows the answer, maybe they are just making conversation. If they don’t know the answer, ask if they remember asking you the question already. If not, be alerted that their short-term memory isn’t working properly-a big warning sign.

    BOTTOM LINE:
    If your eyebrows go up in surprise over something odd that a loved one says or does, don’t argue or get upset, simply write it down so you have specific examples later when you take your elder to the doctor. This will help you to get a referral to a dementia specialist and a much better chance of getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

  • See this posting about on getting loved ones to see a new doctor.
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    You can learn more about Jacqueline and find information about her book at ElderRage.com.

Published On: December 15, 2006