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Spotting the signs of dementia during the holiday season

It’s that time of year again—the weather is getting warmer, Christmas music starts to play at the supermarket, and you begin to anticipate finally seeing the extended family again (whether in a positive way or negative!). But then you notice it—something about one of your relatives seems a bit different, and they are exhibiting some concerning behaviour.

What you may be noticing are symptoms of dementia. While the holiday season takes its toll on us in different ways, here are some signs to watch out for.

  1. Difficulty coping with stress

Christmas has never been an easy time of year to navigate, but the deterioration of a relative’s ability to cope with the bustle may be indicative of dementia. Dementia impairs a person’s ability to carry out once-familiar tasks, turning seemingly simple chores into a struggle.

  1. Confusion during conversation

While we ALL feel confused when our grandson tries to explain the latest technology, communication difficulties are one tell-tale sign of dementia. People with dementia may struggle to articulate themselves, and seem unable to follow a conversation.

Try speaking in clear, straightforward terms to a relative showing signs of dementia, and maintain direct eye contact while you speak.

  1. Lack of recognition

Perhaps you’re spending time together in a family home, and you spot a family member looking lost or confused. This is more than just momentary forgetfulness—dementia impacts memory recollection, and places that were once familiar now seem confusing and unknown. Be sure to signpost bathrooms and living areas in your home should someone seem lost; it will reduce their distress and confusion as they walk around.

Places aren’t the only thing that can be forgotten—people with dementia may also forget people. Whether it be a spouse, friend, or relative, a person developing dementia may have troubling recalling faces and names.

  1. Loss of decorum

This isn’t just a case of too much eggnog; an early sign of dementia is a change in behaviour. Dementia changes the way people act in social situations. They may make inappropriate comments, poorly-timed jokes, exhibit sexual behaviour, or forget their manners. Though the initial response of family members may be shock and disapproval, it is not the person’s fault. Give the person a space to withdraw to away from other people, in order to give them (and you) a break.

While the thought of dementia in yourself or a relative may be scary, a diagnosis can enable you to seek appropriate care. There is a lot of support available for people with dementia, and it is not something that you must experience alone.

About Dementia Auckland

Dementia Auckland
Dementia Auckland is a not for profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life. Dementia Auckland provides a wide range of services and support across the greater Auckland region. Dementia Key Workers offer intensive support and practical strategies for the carer of a person with dementia, including home visiting, telephone consultations, and support groups. Visit www.dementiaauckland.org.nz for more info.

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