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Holidays an important time to see warning signs of dementia

Ann Marie Doetterl

Ann Marie Doetterl remembers the alarm she felt coming back to Buffalo from Denver in the early 1990s to visit her ailing mother. “You come home to the house you grew up in and you’re noticing mail left unopened and bills that aren’t paid. Or looking at the checking account and seeing that things are being paid for twice, or not all.”

The holidays can be a time when those visiting loved ones want to take a closer look at signs that suggest a higher level of care might be in order, said Doetterl, regional director for Alzheimer’s Caregiver Services with Catholic Charities of Buffalo, as well as regional director of the WNY Alzheimer’s Caregiver Partnership.

Those signs include:

- “Look at the overall condition of your loved one,” Doetterl said. “Do they seem unkept? Are they not changing their clothing or caring for themselves?”

- Is there clutter in the home or apartment?

- Are there lots of messages on the answer machine, including some that suggest people seek money?

- Is there spoiled or no food in the refrigerator?

- “Maybe mom used to be able to cook a Thanksgiving meal but now can’t get through all the steps.”

- Are there misplaced items found in odd places: car keys in a sugar bowl, keys wrapped in clothing and stuffed in a drawer?

- Are you told paranoid statements: “Someone keeps hiding my purse on me.”

- Is your loved one getting lost going to familiar places like the market or church?

- Are there bruises, cuts, scars or sores your loved one can’t account for?

- Is your loved one calling family and friends many times a day and raising concerns about health or safety – or to ask the same questions previously answered?

- Do they refusing to go to the doctor or dentist? Are they mismanaging medications?

- Are there significant signs of weight loss?

“The kinds of things that make us go, ‘Hmm, something isn’t right here,’ can be early signs of dementia,” Doetterl said. “Let’s face it, all of us at some point in time will become caregivers to someone: a friend, a neighbor, a family member. We’re going to be exposed, so we should be educated. It’s a dance. You have to come in and assess things and decide what has to change first, what resources are available.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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