Imagine a world without the rigors of aging. No mobility and memory loss issues. No situation where the older adult you love forgets everything about themselves and you. Sadly, we live in a world where memory fails with age. Watching this gradual cognitive decline occur in the ones you love can be distressing.
Try these techniques to help a senior you love with their memory loss issues:
1. Take detailed notes. As you notice changes in brain function, keep track of specific examples. The time and day they forgot to brush their teeth. How often do they think they lost their glasses without actually losing them? Suppose it’s getting worse by the day?
It will help you give a detailed report of their situation to a medical professional. Note what may have triggered the memory loss. Was it because of the loss of a loved one? Did it start after a fall or an accident? Have they made a big move or changed their surroundings recently?
Have they started or stopped taking medication? It can help identify ways to reverse or get treatment to manage the symptoms.
2. Encourage them to see a doctor. Memory loss may result because of urinary infection or pneumonia. When you notice a decline in their cognitive functions, help them get a medical diagnosis. Encourage them to make an appointment or make one for them. Ask them if they would like you to accompany them or would prefer to go with another relative or a close friend. Getting a medical diagnosis will aid in effective treatment.
3. Treat them with respect. You don’t want to undermine them or make them feel like they are not in their right minds. When you see a doctor together, avoid talking over the senior because you think you are in a better position to explain the situation. Allow them to talk. The interaction will help the doctor make a good assessment. It’ll also help the senior get familiar with the doctor to build a relationship. After their conversation, you can ask for permission to talk to the doctor about what you have observed.
4. Take them to the emergency room. This is necessary when their memory loss is sudden and significant, such as if they instantly forget chunks of basic information or knowledge about themselves or people close to them. Or they get delusional and begin to fear that something terrible will happen to them or you and start acting out. It may be more severe than you think. Quickly take them to a doctor.
5. Communicate using short sentences. When speaking to them, remember that they may look fine, but their brains have changed. They may not process a lot of information and explanation at once. Keep your statements basic and concise. For instance, if you have to get the groceries, do not bother explaining that they forgot to get this or the other time, so you have to go. Instead, tell them you are going to buy groceries.
6. Convince them to live with you or your caretakers. You may try to explain to them how their condition could deteriorate and there are risks of living alone. Some may understand right away, while others will be resistant and insist that they are fine. In such cases, have a doctor tell them instead. Sometimes such news is better relayed by a professional.
7. Do not argue with them. They may forget what they hear, get confused easily, accuse you of things you didn’t do, and say mean things to you. It can get frustrating, but there’s no point in yelling at them or raising your voice. It’s a losing battle and will only make them angrier and more confused. They may even become depressed.
8. Try to improvise. Go along with whatever story or reality they are living in today. Be with them in their world or version of reality. They enjoy telling their stories, so let them talk. It’s not always easy to roll with their way of thinking, but it’s all you can do to help them.
9. Avoid playing guessing games with them. Don’t ask questions like, “Do you know who I am? Do you remember where this happened?” That only frustrates and embarrasses them. It hurts their feelings and makes them feel belittled. Instead, introduce yourself and others as you approach. You will see the relief on their faces when you do.
10. Watch what you say in their presence. Never talk about them as if they are not there. They hear more than you realize. They may later remember what you said and feel sad. Stay encouraging, cheerful, and friendly.
Whatever happens, you can’t stop the progress of time. You can help the older adult in your care get as comfortable as possible, but you can’t get their memories back. Endeavor to maintain a healthy lifestyle for them for as long as you can. OL