The holidays offer a time for families to make memories and to reminisce over the past. However, if someone in your family suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can seem as if celebrating the holidays is futile, or just too sad to face. This shouldn’t be the case.
“Participating in familiar traditions may be very comforting to individuals with Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Greg Jicha, a neurologist and researcher with the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.
“Favorite songs, readings, and foods may bring joy to those with dementia, even if they have difficulty remembering why. Research has also shown that, even if someone with dementia forgets things like family members’ names, they gain a sense of well-being from being part of familiar celebrations and rituals.”
People with dementia might suffer from loss of their short-term memory, but still have excellent recall of events that happened long ago. Writing down stories told by older relatives is an excellent way for the generations to bond.
The holidays also offer an opportunity to see far-off family members, and to notice changes in them. Changes like forgetfulness, confusion, irritability, or a sense of being disconnected from events may be signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, or it could be normal aging. Either way, a professional memory screening could be in order.
“Ignoring a real memory problem won’t make it go away,” says Jicha. “There are interventions available. Time is precious, and you should give it as a gift to your loved ones this holiday season by getting them the help they need today.”
Only a professional screening can determine if the symptoms are due to Alzheimer’s or normal aging. If you have concerns about a loved one, contact your family doctor or the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at (859) 323-5550.
– A sense of being disconnected from events
Watch an hourlong, informative video by Dr. Jicha on Forgetfulness: Recognizing Age Related Changes vs. A More Serious Problem online at http://vimeo.com/17155127.
ALLISON ELLIOTT provides health information for UK HealthCare.