Have you noticed a decline in a loved one’s memory or ability to care for himself? Are you concerned that they may be experiencing memory problems or even dementia? The onset of memory problems can occur quite suddenly and without warning. Memory problems can significantly reduce a loved one’s quality of life and even endanger them as they forget simple ways to care for themselves.
Being on the observing end of these episodes may make you feel helpless, insecure, or even angry that you must watch the decline of your loved ones. You may feel a responsibility to take over measures for them to ensure that they remain safe and secure in their golden years, but this is a subject to approach lightly. Many people do not take kindly to the suggestion that they are no longer capable of caring for themselves, so there are some things that you can do to prepare yourself and your loved one for some difficult conversations. Here are 8 things you need to do if you suspect that a loved one is suffering from dementia or memory loss:
1. Become familiar with the warning signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s
Knowing what signs and symptoms to look for will be key in determining when to have personal care conversations. It is essential that you find out more about this condition to determine if this is what is taking place. Look for these signs that they have set in:
- Memory changes
- Withdrawal from usual activities
- Disorientation with regard to time and place
- Visual and spatial difficulties
- Decreased ability to recall and use words for speech
- Problem-solving and planning challenges
- Personality changes; mood swings
- Frequently misplaced items
- Decline in judgment
- Difficulty in performing familiar tasks
If two or more of these issues are present, then you must begin looking at the fact that there may be a problem. Being able to present your loved one with facts and evidence that back up your claim will help them to realize that you have their best interests in mind.
2. Talk with other close family members or friends
Make sure that you are getting a clear picture of what is happening by comparing your experience with that of others when dealing with your loved one. The more similarities you note in your interactions with them, the more convincing your case will be when you present options for care.
3. Have “the conversation”
This is a difficult conversation to have with a loved one. Asking him if he thinks his memory is working, or how they feel they have been able to deal with their life circumstances. Some people may fear that this is happening and be relieved to talk about it, while others may be defensive and deny that anything has changed. Tread lightly, and be attentive to feelings as they come up, letting your loved one know that you will support him through this difficult period of time when many decisions about the future have to be made. Letting him know that he is not alone in this struggle will bring comfort and draw you closer toward finding solutions that work for everyone involved.
4. Persuade him to visit the doctor
Your loved one will need an assessment by a physician. There may be other medical issues that can contribute to memory loss; getting a thorough evaluation will narrow down a diagnosis and enable you to come to a conclusion so you can proceed with treatment. If he resists making a doctor appointment, you may start by stressing the importance of getting an annual checkup as part of a proactive health plan, and explain how much it means to you that they are healthy and well cared for. Taking the focus off of what might be wrong and focusing instead on being proactive might be the unique spin that is needed for forwarding action.
5. Investigate options for personal care assistance
If the memory has been enough of a concern that your loved one can no longer care for himself, it is time to investigate options for a personal care assistant or assisted living. Discuss different options with your loved one and ask what their wishes are, and be open to looking at memory care and assisted living facilities that can aid in everyday life activities. Once your loved one sees the dignity and integrity of care that exists in these residential facilities, he might be more open to discussing a plan for the future.
6. Talk to doctors about options for treatment
Your doctor may be privy to information on dementia treatments that may extend and improve the quality of life; discuss options for treatment with your medical professionals to determine how to approach the diagnosis. Make decisions together with your loved one to let them know that they are supported in this process and that you will be there to help protect their health and well being in the later stages of the disease.
7. Make legal and financial decisions to ease future burdens
In the later stages of dementia, it will be nearly impossible for your loved one to make sound decisions about legal and financial matters. This inability to make sound decisions might just impact you in some way; let him know that you will assist in helping him make those important decisions that will impact him as well as you. As you walk this path together, easing any burden will be preferable, as there will be an emotional and physical toll on all of you. Do what you can to get logistical matters taken care of so you can focus on quality time together.
8. Cherish those memories
Memories and time spent together seem even more precious now that your loved one struggles to keep everything straight. Making memory books, taking plenty of photographs, and even writing about your time together will give your loved one peace of mind that these moments will not be forgotten. Making comforting and cherished mementos will give him something to hold onto as he finds himself in an increasingly frightening world of the unknown. Surrounding all of you with these cherished memories and precious items will help you all feel more supported through the process.
Memory loss is a scary and frightening road for anyone to travel; doing what you can to ensure safety and elevate the quality of life in the later stages of dementia will give you both peace of mind. Cherish those precious moments, have courageous conversations, and love each other through this process.
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