Keeping a Family Together Beyond the Holidays
For the firm and our clients, our families are the biggest draw about having some time off for the holidays, from our jobs and our year-round routine. As we begin a new year, our hearts are still filled with deep sentiment after spending time with our loved ones. It is more important than ever at this point in the new year to take to pay close attention and note all progress or setbacks in our loved ones’ health. Some careful observation now may make a big difference in the future when we find ourselves helping our loved ones in a more active way. In the months following the holiday season, it is not uncommon for hotlines and web sites to see an increase in reports of changes that families believe to be signs of physical or cognitive decline. Here are some things to consider.
Perception vs. memory
We all have walked into a room and forgotten what we were there for. Our surroundings were still familiar to us. Absent-mindedness is not a disease nor is it exclusive to senior citizens. With dementia, though, it is more likely that the room itself will become unfamiliar. While we may now take for granted the mundane details of day to day life our loved ones may come to depend on you to recall these details in order to reinforce their perception. Tell them stories of their past. No detail is too mundane.
Compulsion vs. repetitiveness
Speaking of stories, there is usually no shortage of these flying around at family gatherings. You’ve heard them all before and depending on who is telling them, you’ve heard the same details repeated over and over. Repetition is no more a sign of dementia than absent-mindedness. However, if repetition has taken the form of compulsive or ritualized behavior, you may have cause for concern. In the absence of another mind to help make sense of the world, it is all too common for a person to lock onto a specific scenario, likely a familiar one from the past. It will then become the center of a cycle of thought that could be a sign of dementia.
Changes in daily habits
When you spent time with your loved ones this holiday season, was there anything different about the way things were done to prepare? Of course it is not unusual for tasks such as the preparation of dinner or decorating to be done by younger people as the elderly members of the family become less able. However, more mundane things like stacks of unopened bills or sudden clutter and hoarding could signal troubling changes. Perhaps it is becoming clear that your loved ones cannot navigate the steps safely so they are staying on one floor, or they do not understand the mail coming in so they do not read it. These are signs that something more urgent could be happening.
Keep it together
It’s New Year’s Day. Give your wallet a rest but don’t let up on the togetherness. If you do suspect that one of your elders is showing signs of dementia, you have merely been given one extra reason to maintain the camaraderie of family during this time. We all promise to spend more time with family during the holidays because it's a pleasant experience, and all too often we do not follow through on those promises. Let this year be different. Investigate any fears you might have about your loved ones' physical or cognitive health, for their sake and yours. If your fears turn out to be unwarranted, you still can consider yourself armed with knowledge that may come in handy in the future.
Here are some suggestions from our friends at AdavancedRM Eight Helpful Holiday Hints for Elder Caregivers
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