Let’s talk memory loss! Memory loss within the senior community can present in many different forms and affect each person differently. Whether your loved one is suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or just starting the early phases of memory loss, the best thing you can do is be there for them. Memory loss can cause your loved one to become stressed, have anxiety, moments of confusion, and and be very fearful. Complex feelings like this mixed with memory loss can cause them to become angry or upset easily. We know memory loss not only affects your loved one but you as their caregiver as well. Below are some tips to help your loved one suffering from memory loss.
1. Avoid Open-Ended Questions.
• Asking “What would you like for dinner?” or “what do you want to do today?” may seem like a perfectly normal question to a person who doesn’t have memory issues, but now we are asking our loved one to come up with an answer with more choices than they can comprehend and process. Instead, try giving them two choices, “Would you like Steak or Chicken for dinner?” or “Would you like to go to the art museum or walk in the park today?” By doing this you are still giving them the freedom of making their own choices with a little help. It may even help to hold out two fingers representing each option, so they have something physical to point to as their desired option.
2. Distract and Redirect.
• When someone has memory loss, he/she often forgets important things such as their spouse passing away or that they no longer live where they once did. When we remind them of these touching things, we also bring up the pain all over again and the person with memory loss experiences the loss all over again. It’s the same when someone wants to go home, reassuring him that he is at home often leads to an argument or feelings of anger. Redirecting is a better way to calm a person and get them to focus on something else. They may get stuck in a loop and keep asking the same things over and over. Try changing the subject completely and redirect them to a new topic of discussion.
3. Therapeutic Lying/Playing Along Can Reduce Stress.
• Therapeutic lying is the practice of deliberately deceiving patients for reasons considered in their best interest.
• Our motto is usually honesty is the best policy but in situations where dementia or Alzheimer’s is present, pretending is the name of the game! Honesty about certain situations can lead to distress for both of you. Does it really matter that your loved one still thinks she works at the library or that he staying in a hotel instead of the facility they live in? No, it does not matter. If that is what they remember about a time in their life, then play along with them. It does not harm them in any way and those memories keep them in a happy place in their life. Some seniors have even thrived from having a baby doll to care for as if it was their own.
4. Establish Routines
• Seniors with memory issues thrive on routine and familiarity. Having a day unlike others such as a yearly doctor appointment can really throw them off and cause a meltdown. Disruptions in daily routines can alleviate their anxiety and make it harder for them to get back to normal schedules once the disruption is over. If your loved one has attended pottery class every Tuesday for years, keep up the routine! Doing the same old thing they always have done really helps their mood to be stable.
• Familiar faces, familiar environments, even familiar activities, such as a workout class the same time each week will help them feel secure and safe. Their conscious mind may not know what day it is or who is around, but their subconscious mind will put them at ease knowing they are in a safe environment with familiar people.
5. Be Patient.
• Remember, it is the illness talking and certainly not their normal behavior. You may have to repeat yourself often and allow more time for a response. Try to be open to their concerns, even if it is hard for you to understand where they come from. If you become frustrated or things become more tense, take a time out. You can even try to step out of the room for a moment, when you walk back in, they most likely will have forgotten what agitated them to begin with.
We hope these tips help you care for your loved ones suffering from any form of memory loss. Always remember you are not alone and reaching out for help is okay! Our caregivers at Keeping Good Company are trained to work with all forms of memory loss can give you that peace of mind. We are also there to give you a break if you need it. Remember to take care of yourself first so you can take the best care of someone else. No one person can do it all themselves. (take the caregiver guilt away.) Call us today!