As the holidays approach, and we gather with family and friends, this is the time of year that we realize a loved one might have memory or cognitive impairment. As you gather with your loved ones over the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, I have some ideas of things you can look for.

Start by assessing the physical appearance of your friend or family member. Are they thinner than the last time you saw them? Have they gained weight at an extreme rate? Does your parent look a bit disheveled? Are the clothes they are wearing clean? Have they worn the same clothes two days in a row? Are the clothes they are wearing matching?








Assess whether or not the person asks repetitive questions over a several-minute period. Do they seem to be able to follow the current conversation you are having with them, or do they seem lost while conversing? If they are unable to follow a current conversation such as your current state of affairs, your travel schedule upon arrival, or answer questions about their current lifestyle, this could be a red flag.

Look around their home, and assess whether or not it appears to be clean. If they are person who was always tidy and yet there seemed to be piles of paperwork, clothing, or other items around the home, again this could be a warning sign.

Are there boxes unopened of items recently purchased? If they are a close relative, ask if they have balanced their checkbook lately and ask if they need any help. Offer to help balance the checkbook. If they allow this, look to see if they’ve made any huge purchases for random items or charities. Again these could be signs of some type of impairment in the person’s cognition.

Check the refrigerator, and look for items that are expired and remove them if they allow you to. Also check their pantry to make sure it is stocked with food. It may have been a while since they were at the store last. Eating is a big part of our lives and when we forget to partake in daily meals this can really affect our physical appearance and health. On the other hand, eating too much or too many sweets can also have a huge impact.

In general, assess the person, their surroundings, general health, their finances, and other activities of daily living like grooming, to ensure that they are safe and healthy. Also check their social status; are they maintaining friendships, or have they come become reclusive? If any of these things ring true, and you deeply care about the person, you may wish to have a neurobehavioral exam or a mini mental exam administered to assess any cognitive impairment which may be present.

Talk with the person that you love, or are friends with, and ask for their input on their current condition. Asked them directly if they are having any issues that they need assistance with, and let them know you are not standing in judgment, you just wish to help them if they need any assistance.

Holidays have a tendency to bring issues such as this to light, and at times we might have known it was coming, but now have to address it before years end. If you need assistance, please email me at and I will be happy to assist you in any way necessary.

Caregivernation you are not alone! I am here for you and will assist you in any way possible, through this difficult realization. Visit my Bundles page on this website, for a multitude of information bundles that will answer many of your questions.

Jill Lorentz is the President and Owner of Summit Resilience Training, Dementia Education for Caregivers. She is also the Host of KEZW Cruisin’1430am Dementia Resilience with Jill Lorentz which airs Sunday’s 10:00-10:30 am MST. Jill teaches families and professionals strategies and techniques which help them to feel understood and allows them to relieve stress so they can enjoy their lives while caregiving.