Family and friends urged to spot signs of dementia during Christmas period

Confusion in another environment could be a sign of the disease Credit: PA Images

Family and friends can play a key role in spotting signs of dementia when meeting loved ones over the Christmas period, an NHS expert has said.

Forgetting names of relatives or putting the oven on for the Christmas turkey, as well as confusion in another environment could all be signs of the disease.

It comes as hundreds more people will be checked for dementia in a new specialist service being trialled across England.

Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia, said: "The pandemic has naturally had an impact on the number of people diagnosed with dementia, with elderly people seeing fewer people to protect themselves from Covid-19."

He adds: "The NHS is determined to ensure those who developed dementia during the pandemic are given a diagnosis as it will open up doors to further support for people and their families who suffer from this heart-breaking disease.

"There are many things we can do in the NHS to care for and support people if they do get a diagnosis, and importantly there is support for their families and carers too.

"So if you have noticed over the festive period that someone has symptoms, please encourage them to visit their GP for an assessment – the sooner someone is seen the quicker the NHS can support them."

A Christmas dinner Credit: David Davies/PA

The NHS said the following could be signs of dementia over the Christmas period:

  • Confusion in a new environment

Someone may become disorientated or confused when in a new place.

Being at a relative’s house where the lay out is unusual could put a person’s memory and orientation to the test.

  • Not recalling certain things

Forgetting the names of loved ones or forgetting a present to the extent that it causes embarrassment.

Complex tasks such as cooking a big Christmas dinner for a large number of people.

The sign could be something like forgetting to switch the oven on, forgetting to put the sprouts on or cooking things in the wrong order.   

The health service has announced care home residents will be proactively assessed for the condition by specialist nurses and other healthcare professionals through 14 new pilot schemes to be rolled out.

GPs will share a list of care home residents without a dementia diagnosis and staff will check to see if those listed have memory problems, before offering them a full face-to-face assessment.

NHS England is investing £900,000 to launch two pilots in seven regions.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay: "We want a society where every person with dementia, their families and carers receive high quality, compassionate care in the right place.

"This new service is a step in the right direction working towards better support for those whose conditions went undiagnosed during the pandemic."

Mark MacDonald, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: "Diagnosing dementia is crucial to unlocking the right care and support, so we’re pleased NHS England is prioritising the diagnosis of people in care homes through this initiative.

"Knowing someone has dementia can transform their care, ensuring they receive the right kind of support, and that families and carers get the information and guidance they also need after a diagnosis."