Recognising Memory Changes in Older Family Members during the Festive Season

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MARC - Memory Changes in Family Members during the Festive Season

As the festive season unfolds, families across the country come together to celebrate. With this extra time spent with family, changes in the memory of older loved ones may become more apparent. It is crucial to remain vigilant for changes in memory, as they could be early signs of dementia.

What Conditions Fall Under Memory Problems?

One of the most common memory problems facing the older generations is Dementia. It is estimated that around 900,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, with this figure estimated to rise to 1.6 million by 20401. The condition is a group of symptoms that is caused by different diseases damaging the brain. Symptoms of dementia include memory loss, confusion, problems with language and understanding, and changes in behaviour.

A condition that can be a precursor to dementia is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). This condition impacts people’s memory and thinking skills. While everyone will typically experience a natural decline in their memory and thinking as they get older, for those living with MCI, these issues are worse than expected for their age. It’s thought that around 2 out of 10 people over 65 are living with MCI2.

Tips for Observing Memory

Whether you’re observing your own memory and cognitive skills or those of a loved one, these are our tips for noticing changes in memory.

  1. Engaging in Conversations – Those who are starting to develop memory problems may experience difficulty or inconsistencies when joining in conversations. Studies have shown that people with dementia show lower understanding and verbal expression during conversation3.
  2. Taking Note of Social Interactions – Changes in behaviour, such as withdrawal, confusion, or uncharacteristic mood swings, may be indicative of underlying cognitive changes.
  3. Notice Misplacing Items – Memory lapses can manifest in small but noticeable ways, such as misplacing items. In a study analysing common symptoms reported by dementia patients, 28% reported losing items as a recurring symptom of their condition4.
  4. Monitoring Changes in Routine – Those living with memory problems may exhibit difficulties in adhering to routines and remembering dates. This can be particularly crucial around the festive time when remembering dates and times for plans with family and friends.
  5. Assess Decision-Making Abilities – Difficulty in making choices, increased hesitation, or relying heavily on others for guidance may indicate cognitive changes. In a study of older adults living with dementia who received long-term care, around three-quarters of them reported only being somewhat capable of making decisions5.
  6. Noticing Repeated Questions or Stories – While it’s common for individuals to share anecdotes while spending time with family at Christmas time, repetition in storytelling or asking the same questions multiple times may signify memory challenges.
  7. Seek Professional Guidance – If you notice persistent and concerning changes in your older family members’ memory or behaviour, it is crucial to seek professional guidance. A healthcare provider can conduct assessments to determine the nature of the changes and explore potential interventions.

Memory Testing

Did you know that MAC Clinical Research established some of the very first memory clinics in the UK? MAC continues to proudly provide free memory tests to the local communities in Lancashire, Merseyside, South Staffordshire, South Yorkshire, Teesside, and West Yorkshire.

At MAC Clinical Research, individuals attending the memory clinic can benefit from:

  • An appointment within four weeks with the specialist team who are registered Dementia Friends
  • Assessment and discussion of memory concerns in a relaxed friendly environment
  • Explanation of the results of the assessment
  • Liaison with their GP
  • Ongoing memory reviews where needed
  • Option to access potential new treatments via clinical trials

If you are over 50 years old and have concerns about your memory, visit our Memory Assessment Research clinic’s webpage for more information.

1 The London School of Economics and Political Science – Projections of older people with dementia and costs of dementia care in the United Kingdom, 2019–2040

2 Alzheimer’s Research UK – Mild Cognitive Impairment

3 Materia Socio Media – Communication Difficulties as a Result of Dementia

4 International Psychogeriatrics – Characterizing the symptom of misplacing objects in people with dementia: findings from an online tracking tool

5 The Open Nursing Journal – The Decision-Making and Communication Capacities of Older Adults with Dementia: A Population-Based Study

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