The holidays may be the only time all year that some families get together. It’s not unusual for family members to notice changes in loved ones that were not visible the year before or during phone calls.
Changes can range from clear differences in physical health and appearance to more subtle alterations in mood and cognitive abilities. Sometimes these changes are immediately apparent to a visiting relative or friend. Other times it is a nagging feeling that things are not quite right, causing lingering anxiety for the visitor long after they have returned to their own home.
Increasing longevity has brought with it both benefits and new challenges. The decline of a parent’s health or intellectual capacity often requires adult children to become involved in decisions about a parent’s life. These decisions are not easy and there are no simple solutions. Each older person and family system is unique. The right answer for one family may be inappropriate for another faced with a similar situation and decision.
If you have noticed memory or cognitive changes – even subtle ones – in older family members, it’s important to follow up. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but there are many other factors that can contribute to cognitive changes including other illnesses – such as Huntington’s disease, Pick’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or vascular dementia – as well as injury, poor nutrition or problems with medication. One option is to discuss your concerns – at no charge – with a Master’s level clinician at the Alzheimer’s Association. AA Helpline clinicians can help you determine if you should take action and, if so, what next steps might be appropriate, including referral to physician or other health organization. Early detection and action are key to minimizing symptoms through medication, protection from possible neglect/abuse, legal and long-term care planning, and securing resources and assistance needed to continue to live independently.
Source: The Michigan Dementia Coalition. The Coalition is the coordinator of a statewide public awareness campaign focusing on dementia and memory loss. WorriedAboutMemoryLoss.com is an education campaign showcasing the facts of memory loss and dementia and resources available in Michigan for patients and caregivers. For more information online connect to www.WorriedAboutMemoryLoss.com or call 1.800.272.3900 for services in Michigan. For more information on the Michigan Dementia Coalition contact Micki Horst, Michigan Public Health Institute, at 517.324.7318.