Evaluating Dementia Warning Signs During The Holidays

Close-up of seniors holding hands in front of a decorated Christmas tree

The holidays are here! For many families, this holiday season will be the first they’ve celebrated together in two years. Spending time with aging parents or loved ones? It’s the perfect opportunity to get a picture of their health and well-being – and identify any dementia warning signs.

“We often hear from families around the holidays,” says Janet McNemar, NHA, MBA, Executive Director of Saunders House. “Especially if the adult children live out of town and can’t spend extended periods of time with their parents. They may notice changes and ask us about dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

After a long period of time apart, it’s natural you see changes in your parents, but there’s no cause for alarm. Enjoy the holidays together while you observe their actions. Here is a list of signs and symptoms that indicate which behaviors are normal signs of aging and which may require a physician’s opinion.


Everyone forgets a name or misplaces a key occasionally. It’s normal.

As parents age, they may be less able to remember certain kinds of information – but still be very healthy. Symptoms of dementia are more pronounced than simple memory lapses. Here are some signs and symptoms to look for.

Does your loved one show signs of memory loss?
Common signs of early dementia include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, inability to manage personal finances, and fear of traveling alone or trying new things.
Normal aging: Occasionally forgetting names or appointments.

Does your loved one have difficulty with everyday tasks? 
A person with dementia may find it hard to complete usual daily tasks. They may get confused while cooking a meal or making a phone call.
Normal aging: Sometimes forgetting why you came into a room or what you planned to say.

Does your loved one have problems with words or communication?
People with early-stage dementia often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making them hard to understand.
Normal aging: Occasionally having difficulty finding the right word.

Does your loved one become disoriented?
With cognitive decline, people can get lost in their own neighborhood and not know how to get back home.
Normal aging: Forgetting the date or day of the week. 

Does your loved one exhibit poor judgment or decision-making?
Those with dementia may show poor judgment. It may be as simple as wearing sweaters or jackets on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. Or it may be as significant as giving away valuable possessions or large sums of money.
Normal aging: Making a questionable or strange decision now and then.

Does your loved one experience changes in mood?
Dementia can cause rapid, unexpected mood swings, from happiness to anger to tears, for no reason.
Normal aging: Occasionally feeling sad or moody.

Does your loved one misplace things?
This is more than occasionally misplacing your glasses. Someone with dementia may put things in strange places, like a toothbrush in the refrigerator or a piece of jewelry in a shoebox.
Normal aging: Losing track of keys or a purse.

Has your loved one experienced a change in personality?
People with memory impairment can have noticeable personality changes. Confident, happy people may become confused, fearful, easily agitated or dependent on others.
Normal aging: Personalities change with age, but the changes aren’t dramatic or alarming.


If you notice any of these signs or symptoms during the holidays, it’s important to plan your next steps. It starts with a conversation.

Have a Heart-to-Heart Talk with Your Loved One

Talk with your loved one about your concerns. Try these dementia conversation starters to make it easier: Do you feel safe at home? Is taking care of the house too much? Are you lonely?

Suggest you make an appointment with their primary care physician for a complete physical and wellness assessment. Plan to accompany your loved one to the visit. The results of this exam will provide you with the answers you need to take the next steps, if necessary.

Identify Memory Care Resources

If possible, call area memory care communities to discuss options for your loved one. The good news is that senior living and memory care communities are available to provide information, even during the holiday season. “We’re here to help,” says Janet.

Janet continues, saying that people with dementia have unique needs that require specialized care and attention. “At Saunders House, we’ve created Care Traditions, a memory care program that blends personalized support with a meaningful lifestyle.”

Saunders House does a complete evaluation and has many different options and levels of care for seniors living with dementia. For example, those with early to mid-stage dementia can live in almost any residence at Saunders House. For added security, those residents simply wear a Wander Guard BLUE bracelet while enjoying access to a variety of amenities and community spaces.

The memory care neighborhood is designed for dementia safety and security while promoting independence and freedom. Such careful attention to detail offers families peace of mind and residents the care and lifestyle they deserve.


Reach out to family members and friends and let them know what’s going on. Is your loved one living at home? Ask them to keep an eye on them and contact you in the event of an emergency.

We encourage you to call us with any general questions you might have and to stay current on a variety of senior health and caregiver topics by viewing the latest articles on our website.

We’d Love To Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “Evaluating Dementia Warning Signs During The Holidays,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

Discover Our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Medical Center, Saunders House has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Saunders House offers short-term rehabilitation, traditional nursing care, restorative care, memory care, respite care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our short-term rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at 610.658.5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Saunders House for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician. 

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