During Holiday Gatherings, Be on the Lookout for Cognitive Declines

CHARLESTON — As families return to in-person holiday gatherings after lengthy delays caused by the pandemic, cognitive changes in a loved one may be alarmingly apparent.

Visiting with parents and grandparents after being apart for a year or more may lead to the worrisome discovery that loved ones have undergone changes that are impacting their physical condition, thinking skills, or memory.

Teresa Morris, Program Director for the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter, said the Association generally sees the number of calls to its 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 swell during and after the holidays when people visiting with friends and family become aware that something is not quite right.

“Our free helpline is staffed by trained clinicians around the clock to ensure that people looking for answers have somewhere to turn,” Morris said. “If a parent or other family member seems distracted or unable to follow conversation during the holidays or can’t seem to remember where to put dirty dishes, it can be very upsetting,” she said.

Those moments usually lead to a realization that a professional assessment should be scheduled. For immediate help, people can call the Association’s Helpline at 800.272.3900. Morris said if you continue to notice the problem, people should take their loved one to the doctor.

“Helpline calls often lead to local referrals to our chapter for additional resources such as education programs,” Morris said.

Family members should never ignore indications of cognitive impairment. The Alzheimer’s Association has compiled a list of 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s, which include:

• Memory changes that disrupt daily life, such as forgetting important events

• Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to routine places or following a favorite recipe

• Confusion with time or place, such as the date

• Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps, such as putting ice cream in the medicine cabinet

For a complete list of tips and suggestions about how to have a safe holiday gathering, visit www.alz.org/help-support/resources/holidays.

About the Alzheimer’s Association®

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. Visit www.alz.org or call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.