Forgetfulness or Alzheimer’s? How to Tell the Difference When Visiting Elderly Loved Ones this Holiday Season

The holidays are a time when families get together — sometimes after long periods apart.

“If you haven?t seen your elderly loved one in a while, you might be more likely to notice changes in their memory and behavior that worries you,” said Gregory Jicha, M.D., Ph.D., of the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

Look for these early signs of dementia in an elderly loved one:

  • It’s normal for someone to forget a date or a name but suddenly remember it later. However, pay attention if they ask for the same information repeatedly, or struggle to recall important dates (like their own birthdate).
  • Are they having trouble following a recipe? Problem-solving skills can deteriorate in someone with Alzheimer’s.
  • Do they get lost when driving to a familiar location? If they have difficulty completing familiar tasks, it might be a sign of AD.
  • Healthy people occasionally struggle to find the right word, but using the wrong word — particularly if they call something by the wrong name — merits further scrutiny.
  • Poor judgment: are they giving lots of money to telemarketers or charities?
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Personality changes: are they suddenly irrational, fearful, or suspicious?

If you see any behavior that worries you, talk to your doctor or a neurologist for a thorough evaluation.

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