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Ingleside at Rock Creek Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What steps to take when you notice memory loss in your loved one

Have you noticed any behavioral changes in your spouse or a parent but haven’t known how best to bring up the subject? Chances are, your loved one may also be worried about what is happening but is struggling with how to approach this or what to say.

You’re not alone if you discover your family facing this scenario. The good news is that there is guidance to help you find your way.

Why we hesitate to have the conversation

One of the biggest reasons we don’t bring up concerns about memory loss, in ourselves or others, is that we’re afraid of what it might mean. Most of us fear a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. By acknowledging what is happening, we become fearful that we’ll make it real.

However, it’s important to know that there are many causes for memory problems, including medication, a chronic health condition, vitamin deficiency or depression. Identifying and resolving the issue should occur as soon as possible. And if it is a form of dementia, the earlier it’s diagnosed the quicker steps can be taken to address the condition.

Making a difficult talk easier

These 4 steps may help you broach the subject and have a more constructive conversation with your loved one.

1. Prepare

This isn’t a conversation to have on the spur of the moment. Preparing what to say can minimize a response of defensiveness, denial or a refusal to discuss. Thinking through how you would answer these questions can make the discussion go smoother:

  • What time and place would be most beneficial to talk?
  • Do you think your loved one has also noticed any changes?
  • How will you begin the conversation? The Alzheimer’s Association offers these suggestions:

I’ve noticed (describe changes) in you and I’m concerned. Have you noticed this? Are you worried?

How have you been feeling lately? You haven’t seemed like yourself.

I noticed you (give example) and it worried me. Has anything else like that happened?

  • How will you reply if the response is one of agreement, anger or fear?

2. Explain why you're worried

Start by telling your loved one that you care and have become concerned because of certain behaviors you’ve seen. But make sure it doesn’t come across as a judgment or something they should feel wrong about. Even if others have also noticed changes, it’s important not to make it appear that you all are ganging up on your loved one.

3. The message should be that you’re in this together

Encourage them to share with you anything they’ve noticed or are concerned about. Create a plan of action with them and suggest scheduling an appointment with a doctor as the next step.

Consider these words of encouragement recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association:

There are lots of things that could be causing this and dementia may or may not be one of them. Let’s see if the doctor can help us figure out what’s going on.

The sooner we know what’s causing these problems, the sooner we can address it.

I think it would give us both peace of mind if we talked with a doctor.

4. Responding to resistance

If your loved one quits talking, doesn’t want to listen or refuses to go to a doctor, you may have to let it go for now and try again later. Consider if it would help to bring someone along with you the next time or if there is another person who might get a more positive response. If you have no luck, reach out for help. Ask your doctor’s office or search online for recommendations for other options to try.

Additional resources

The Alzheimer’s Association also includes the following suggestions and recommendations to help you talk with a loved one about memory changes.

  1. Review the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s. Are you seeing any of these signs?

  2. Review the free Dementia Conversations for tips.

  3. Talk with a clinician who can provide information about having this conversation at the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.

  4. Visit the Community Resource Finder for local resources.
  5. If needed, have multiple conversations. Make adjustments for what worked and what didn’t.

Ingleside at Rock Creek Memory Support Assisted Living

We understand the fear of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and how difficult it can be to have some of these tough conversations with loved ones. One of the services we provide to our residents and families is our educational resources and the availability of our highly and specially trained staff to help navigate through the different stages and needs of a cognitive illness.

Our community and whole-person approach to wellness also allows and encourages our residents to feel empowered and engaged. A few of the services and amenities we offer include:

  • Intimate and secure residential neighborhoods
  • Spacious apartments with an abundance of sun and natural light
  • Individual therapy and wellness programs
  • Licensed nursing staff 24/7 educated in best practices in dementia care
  • All-day dining with chef inspired meals and stocked kitchens
  • Social integration with the greater Ingleside community
  • Family support and education

Call (202) 905-0018 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.



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