When Forgetfulness Becomes a Problem.

The holiday season is upon us. For most families, it’s a season to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company. But what if Grandma seems more forgetful than last year? What if Uncle Joe’s house, which is usually immaculate, is messy and unkempt?

Warning Signs

It can be difficult to tell the difference between normal, age-related forgetfulness and dementia. Always seek advice from a medical professional if you have concerns about your family member’s symptoms. The following is a short list of common warning signs:

  1. Do they forget why they walked into a room or forget what season it is?
  2. Do they have trouble completing familiar tasks – such as a recipe?
  3. Do they repeat themselves over and over?
  4. Do they no longer enjoy the same activities and instead seem sad or listless?
  5. Did they used to be very social, but now stay home alone?
  6. Have they exercised poor judgment – like giving money to telemarketers or scammers?
  7. Do they get easily upset and distressed?
  8. Do they get lost in familiar surroundings?
  9. Have they stopped caring about their appearance and stopped bathing or wearing clean clothes?

Next Steps

If your family member is showing early signs of dementia, there are several actions steps you may take depending on your concerns, their rate of decline, and of course, your loved one’s desire to receive assistance.

It can be useful to complete a cognitive assessment to establish a baseline in which to measure cognitive decline over time. This can be done by a physician that is familiar with dementia (such as a geriatrician) or at a clinic that specializes in dementia care, such as the Health Aging Transition Services (HATS) Clinic or the St. Vincent Center for Healthy Aging.

If you are concerned about your family member driving, you can get a driving assessment.

If they forget to take their medications, you can get a pill box that reminds them.

An easy-to-use emergency call button can be helpful in the event of a fall or when they cannot get to the phone.

There are many services that will deliver cooked meals, including Meals on Wheels, Mom’s Meals, or Meals & More.

Sometimes simple home modifications can greatly reduce the risk of falling. For example, making sure transitions are smooth, moving furniture so there are clear walkways or adding grab bars and handrails. Some modifications are more involved, such as converting a tub to a wheelchair accessible shower. Here is a useful Fall Prevention In-Home Assessment Checklist.

This is a short list of resources that are available to assist your family. If you need additional resources please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Happy holidays!

About Sara McClammer

Sara McClammer, Founder & Team Leader at Scout Guardianship Services, is a Nationally Certified Guardian and is a partner at the law firm of Bennett & McClammer where her practice focuses on guardianship and elder law issues.

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