How to Talk to an Elderly Family Member About Memory Loss
It’s a sensitive topic. What do they recall? Older adults can often get defensive when it comes to their memories, taking aim at those who challenge their recollections. Those family members who feel they “know what’s best” also feel as though they are disrespecting their elders by questioning their stories. We were taught that respect is the most valuable gift to those we love, so it’s difficult not to hesitate when the time comes for this kind of conversation.
But when is it a simple slip versus something more serious? When is ignoring the obvious hurtful? And when is it worth the risk of hurting the eldest and most valued members of the family? It’s all in the severity of the memory lapse.
The Time to Talk
The Mayo Clinic reports that it’s not the simple things that count but the more repetitive, obvious issues. If loved ones repeatedly ask questions, mix up their words, forget common phrases or misplace belongings in odd places, these may be the first signs of true memory loss. Additionally, elders may get lost or experience sudden mood changes that may signal true issues.
How to Prepare
Approaching those with memory loss may cause anxiety. Alzheimers.net, an online community for the loved ones of those with memory loss, suggests that the conversation should happen as early as possible when patients are at their best and before memory loss gets worse.
Additionally, the person who is closest to that loved one should have the conversation – they need someone they trust; this person should understand that their family member may seem confused or offended at the idea initially. They may deny the memory loss or even show signs of anger. This is often hurtful for loved ones, but it is important to work toward diagnosing the issue and getting medical advice in order to help keep those family members strong.
And Always Remember the Goal
While asking questions may cause tension or hurt feeling, it may offer loved ones an opportunity to get medical attention and slow the progression of memory loss, which is the best thing for everyone involved. Seek help from professionals early to help those the family holds so dear.
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