Do you have an aging adult in your life that has been diagnosed with a compromised memory? I do not mean idle forgetfulness such as I had today when I could not remember a phone number! I mean serious memory impairment where consistent short term thoughts are lost.
As an example, I forgot a phone number today. As soon as I looked at it and made the call, the number came back to me and 10 minutes later I could tell you the number. The difference being a client and I went out for a walk and was caught in the rain. We became pretty wet and upon arriving home the client changed all clothes into dry ones. The morning progressed with some activities. Half hour or so later the client picked up the hat they had been wearing and in a puzzled voice said, “how did this get wet?” I explained we were caught in the rain and there was no recollection of the walk or being wet from the rain. This is evidence of dementia.
Those who love this client want to help. They put in place protective measures and ensure the safety of their loved one. They also begin to be the memory of the person and consistently say, “don’t you remember …. ” and tell the person what it is they have forgotten. This is not helpful to anyone.
As a person struggles with memory loss there are a few ways in which family can help.
#1 Be patient. When you ask them something, give them lots of time to ponder and then answer you. Often they know they can’t remember and will say that openly. Imposing the answer can confuse and be irritating (even for those who don’t have the challenge.)
#2 Let the professionals do their job. When you hire or have someone coming in to work with your loved one, get out of the way! The professional knows they struggle with memory and will work with them in a professional manner. You do not need to hold their hand. Take the well deserved break and go get a cup of coffee.
#3 Love them through it. One of the hardest things to accept is the loved one no longer seems like themselves. This is a grief time for those around them who realize they are not remembering simple tasks like how to brush their teeth or what to do with the milk when clearing the table. It is hard to watch. The best thing to do is simply love them for who they are now. Go to a support group with others struggling with family members cognitive challenges and gain strength and friends as support.
There are as many degrees of dementia or memory loss as there are grains of sand on a beach. Every person who struggles has a different manifestation of the challenge. Be patient, kind and lovingly seek professionals to help you care for those you love.
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