family having holiday dinner

"Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator offers help at no charge. The program helps family members, caregivers and patients identify support services and resources that will help navigate the dementia journey."

There’s something wonderful about the holidays. Friends and family get together to enjoy a tasty feast, surrounded by holiday decorations and accompanied by festivities and excitement. 

For some of us, we may be seeing relatives we haven’t seen since last year. For older adults, a lot can change in a year, so it’s important to recognize signs that our loved ones may be experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, and 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Yet, only 16 percent of seniors receive regular cognitive assessments during routine health check-ups. 

As a Memory Care Navigator at Sun Health, I’ve identified a few signs to look out for this holiday season that may be cause for concern:

Physical changes. Their grooming or general appearance may decline. Those with dementia tend to become less concerned about being clean and presentable. 

Changes in the home. The house may be more cluttered or disorganized. Food in the pantry or refrigerator may be spoiled or outdated. 

Trouble doing familiar tasks. They may find it difficult to complete routine tasks such as changing the television station, making a cup of tea or getting dressed.

Changes in mood or personality. You may notice mood swings or a change in personality. They may be more irritable, depressed, fearful, anxious, suspicious or may even act inappropriately. 

Speech problems. They may give vague answers to questions or you may observe hesitant or halted speech. They may also have trouble coming up with words or names of objects or people. 

Increased confusion. They may have difficulty finding their way to a familiar place or feel confused about where they are. They may also find it hard to understand events in the past or future. 

Withdrawal from socializing. They may become uninterested in socializing with other people. They can become withdrawn or not want to engage in conversation or activities. 

It’s important to recognize signs of cognitive decline in our loved ones. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia at this time, treatment can ease the symptoms to improve one’s quality of life. 

Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator offers help at no charge. The program helps family members, caregivers and patients identify support services and resources that will help navigate the dementia journey. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 623-832-9300 or visit sunhealthwellness.org/memorycare

Marty Finely is a Sun Health Memory Care Navigator providing personal and professional guidance for clients, family members and caregivers coping with the emotional, psychological and physical effects of dementia.

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