As people get older, they may start to lose their memory which can hinder their life. While memory loss comes with age, it creates problems that require solving. Find out first what constitutes memory loss and then what you can do to help your parent.
Over time, the brain gets rid of memories that are not important so it can store new ones. When a parent forgets a doctor’s appointment, it just means that the older person was not thinking about the visit. However, mild memory loss goes a step further past a normal level of forgetfulness to a chronic issue.
Mild memory loss means the person can remember what happened; they just have little blanks that require filling in sometimes. Even though they sometimes have trouble finding the right word or two, the parent is still able to make good decisions and keep their wits about them in places she knows well. Watch for signs that are out of the norm for your parent.
People with progressive memory loss forget important things like the names of loved ones or important words in the middle of a conversation. Memory loss only worsens over time, which could be a sign of a serious disease like dementia. At this stage, memory loss becomes a handicap as seniors cannot perform simple tasks without issue, such as making decisions or navigating familiar places. Seniors with very bad memory loss should think about getting care at home or in a facility that specializes in memory care.
As we get older, it is normal to forget things now and then, but serious memory problems make it hard to do things like drive, use the phone, and find your way home. If you start to see a cognitive decline, take your parents to their doctor for a thorough examination. The following symptoms warrant concern and a call to the doctor:
Finding the right way to tell your parents they are experiencing memory loss is difficult, which is why you should leave it to their doctor to inform them. If you cannot convince them to go to their physician, it’s best to gather one or two loved ones who can talk with you to tell them of your concerns.
When it comes to memory loss, you can only help your parent if they want help. The problem, though, is they need the help and may not even know! Start by being patient, kind, and loving. You need to come from a place of humbleness to present the right mindset and help to reduce frustrations. A positive mindset can make a world of difference when coping with memory loss.
Next, work on giving visual cues to help direct or redirect your parent. For example, when giving instructions, use clear sentences free of euphemisms such as let’s go. Instead, opt for precise instructions such as you need to get into the car; we are leaving. Additionally, expect to repeat yourself frequently as your parents will need to hear information and ask questions more often.
Routines help reduce stress and worry because they let everyone know what to expect from day to day. People with dementia do best in situations they know well. With familiar routines and things to do, they can feel safe and calm. If they can still do something, they can still feel like they have control over their lives and are independent. Setting up a familiar pattern of events can also help move a daily schedule into the part of the brain that stores long-term memories.
A bad diet, especially one that does not have enough vitamin B12, can cause forgetfulness for the elderly. Eating healthy foods can prevent memory loss by providing brain fuel, such as salmon, broccoli, avocados, and blueberries. Moreover, dehydration can make you forget things and cause confusion. Finally, excessive alcohol can damage brain cells leading to memory problems.
Things like stress, anxiety, and depression can cause memory loss. Most of the time, emotional problems cause temporary memory loss, at least until the problems are solved. In these situations, helping parents deal with stress and other negative emotions can help their memory. Seniors often experience depression from a lack of purpose or social life, which can lead to memory complications but treating it can help.
Seniors who do not get enough sleep may experience memory issues, as can other issues such as inactivity and a poor diet. Help the senior in your life to improve their memory by getting them moving, which will help them to sleep.
As the blood flow to parts of the brain that help with memory, mental health improves in as little as six weeks.
Also, learning new skills, like playing a new instrument or doing memory exercises, improves cognitive function and memory. A sensory test can help the brain make new connections and keep old ones in good shape. Tests like this are easy to set up, at home, such as using food to find different tastes.
Some prescription drugs can cause side effects in seniors, such as memory loss. Plan a visit with the doctor who gave the medicine to see if there are any changes that could help. In addition, you can check online to see which of your parent’s meds may be causing a problem.
Memory-loss patients and loved ones may develop linguistic issues, such as an inability to find a word they want to use. They may use the wrong word, too, such as sugar instead of salt. Bringing it up will only confuse them more and cause an argument. Instead, if you know they want to add sugar to their coffee and not salt, get them the sugar without any corrections. Furthermore, do not tell someone with memory loss they have already asked that question or shared that information, as in the head, they may not have shared.
If your older parent is losing their memory because of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or something else that causes cognitive decline, they may also have trouble with logic. If it makes sense to go to the pharmacy first and lunch after, but they want to go to lunch first, do so as they cannot comprehend the difference. All of this is very personal and depends on your senior loved one, but the most important thing is to do what you can to keep the conversation from turning into a fight.
Many people who take care of elderly family members try to make agreements with them, either in writing or in person, to avoid disagreements. However, they may not remember making the agreement there, for it’s nullified. Bartering does not work either, as they can forget what they are doing while doing it, which means they may not remember the deal.
For example, you may tell them that you can go on a walk together if they watch television for an hour while you work after. Most of the time, this kind of trick does not work because the older parent can not remember it or cannot understand what you are saying. Even if they answer in the positive and seem to understand, they may not, which is why it’s best to avoid these tactics.
Setting up routines in the lives of seniors who are slowly losing their memories does not take much work. The same days should be chosen for daily or weekly tasks. Set the laundry to happen every Tuesday, for example. Write routines down on a big calendar or whiteboard that the parent checks every day. Parents who are good with technology may use their phones or digital assistants to remind them of appointments and tasks.
Putting up signs and notes may help seniors who often forget things. It is important to know, though, that if their memory loss gets worse, they may still be able to read what they see but may not understand or remember what they read. If you are worried that your memory disorder is becoming dangerous and you cannot live alone anymore, you might want to look into an Assisted Living facility or Home Care services.
When it comes to safety, technology can be a very helpful tool. Items like Alexa and Google Home can talk to your parent every day to remind them to remember to do a task such as taking medications or appointments. Lastly, consider checking on your parent a couple of times a day and be their memory if possible.
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