You discuss something important with your elderly loved one and then follow up the next day, only to find that they have no recollection of the conversation. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. Understandably, youre becoming increasingly frustrated, worried, and exasperated, but imagine how your loved one feels.
Ourcompassionate and qualified geriatric teamhere atLightyear Healthhas extensive experience helping both patients and family members navigate the murky waters of memory loss. We understand that the frustration and worry are on both sides, so we thought wed pull together a few tips for approaching the subject of memory loss with your loved one.
Before we get into some best practices for coping with your loved ones memory loss, we want to first underscore the point that this type of problem is extremely common. In fact,1 in 9 adults over the age of 45 in the United States experiences confusion or memory loss. An eye-opening 50% of these people report limitations in their daily activities, from remembering to take their medications to cooking and cleaning.
Nearly6 million people over the age of 65 have Alzheimers dementia(which is about 1 in 10) and this number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million by 2050 thanks to an aging population.
Now that we better understand the prevalence of memory problems in the aging population, lets take a look at how you can best manage the problem in your loved one.
Our first bit of advice may seem fairly obvious, but your fear about your loved one’s health might cause you to become impatient. One of the most difficult aspects of memory-related problems is that your loved one is unaware that theres a problem, while youre made painfully aware of the situation.
Rather than starting a sentence with, Dont you remember …, stop and remind yourself that they honestlydontremember. Memory loss isnt a matter of not paying attention or listening, but a malfunction in your loved ones brain that affects their ability to store information and create memories.
First, probe gently to see if they remember the topic you want to bring up, and if they show no signs of recollection, take a deep breath and start again. This is especially important if you want to talk to them about their memory loss you should expect that this is one conversation youll be having over and over.
If your loved ones memory loss gets progressively worse, consider that theyre becoming more firmly planted in the present, and thats the only context for any conversations you may have. Asking what they did that morning or whether they remembered to take their medicine may only elicit perfunctory answers or half-truths and anger. These types of questions may put them on the defensive.
By the same token, talking to them about the future can be extremely difficult since they dont have any grasp of the problem.
Keeping to the present moment, on the other hand, can be much safer territory. For example, if youre at our offices to see a doctor about your loved one’s memory loss and your loved one keeps asking why theyre there, simply explain that youre there to see the doctor.
Another point to consider is that there’s a good case fornotdiscussing memory lapses with your loved one. These conversations can be tough and leave both sides feeling upset. Not to mention, youll need to have this conversation time and again.
If your loved one doesn’t understand whats happening to them and wont remember any explanation you might give, perhaps its best not to bring up the subject.
Of course, this advice depends upon the extent of the memory loss and how your loved one is coping with the situation.
The best way to figure out how to approach your loved ones memory loss is to sit down with one of our geriatric specialists. To get started,contact us to set up a consultation.