Look out for dementia warning signs over Christmas, urges NHS

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Forgetting to put the oven on for the turkey could be an early indication of dementia, according to NHS England, which is encouraging people to pay attention to their relatives' mental health this Christmas.

Other warning signs could include mixing up names, getting disorientated when visiting someone else's house or forgetting to bring a Christmas present.

"When someone who usually shines in the kitchen is forgetting to do the basics, that can be a vital clue," said Professor Alistair Burns, NHS England's national clinical director for dementia and older people's mental health.

"The important thing is to look for changes in normal behaviour."

The health service estimates that one in three people will care for someone with dementia at some point in their lives.

Currently 676,000 people in the UK have dementia, costing the NHS £23 billion a year.

Prof Burns recommends taking relatives to the doctor as soon as possible if they show signs of forgetfulness or confusion over the festive period.

The NHS is also encouraging people to spend Christmas doing activities which help to reduce the risk of dementia.

They suggest playing board games instead of watching television or going for a family walk instead of having a nap.

The NHS is also advising people to visit friends and family to help reduce the loneliness felt by many older people.

"If you have or know of a relative or neighbour who might be alone, make sure you pop in to see them, it will be greatly appreciated and can make a huge difference to their mental health," said Prof Burns.