Detecting dementia during the holidays

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Paula Leonardi spends most of her time with her 84-year-old mother Ramona.

Sometimes playing word games or just sitting and talking.

It’s bonding that often happens at Senior Services Williams Adult Day Center.

A place Leonardi starting bringing her mom in 2015 when she started noticing changes.

"I went home at Christmas a couple of years ago and things were definitely different," Leonardi said.

Ramona was diagnosed with dementia.

"The hygiene wasn't quite the same, the conversations were not as focused," Leonardi said. "The way she kept house wasn't the same."

She moved her mom from Oklahoma to Winston-Salem to take care of her.

"I realized that she needed help," Leonardi said.

It’s a realization Kathy Long, vice president of the day center, says many adult children often come to after going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

"The children come home for a holiday and spend the night and then they begin to realize, ‘Oh, mom's confused at night,’" Long said.

Long says the day center sees about a 25 percent uptick in calls this time of the year.

The calls usually sound the same.

"Repetition of the same question, ‘Where am I going? I've never been this way before,’" she said. "They will often times begin to lose weight because they forget they haven't eaten."

Long says family members who start noticing changes should get help for their loved one right away.

It's help Leonardi says can't wait.

"Don't be afraid of it and don't put it off because it's not going to get any better," Leonardi said.

Experts also say if you start to notice signs of dementia in a loved one, it's a good idea to make sure they have photo identification on them at all times.