When a loved one has memory loss, the general rules for interaction and communication change drastically. The progression of a disease like dementia or Alzheimer’s interferes with a person’s way of thinking, reasoning skills and even their personality. These changes can make it frustrating for their families and friends to interact with them – unless they learn how. “Interacting successfully with a person with memory loss requires understanding the disease,” says Winsome McLeod, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Stuart, a memory care community in Stuart, Florida. “Once we realize how dementia affects our loved ones, we can begin to alter our approach in more appropriate ways. For example, keeping in mind that your loved one can’t remember recent events as well as long-term memories prepares you for how to respond. If they keep asking about a friend who is recently deceased, reminding them of that fact will only cause sadness and pain. It may be better to politely ask questions about the person and let your loved one reminisce.” As your loved one’s memory loss progresses, you’ll need to learn new ways of interacting that allow you to continue a positive relationship and ultimately increase your ability to provide care.
Real-Life Strategies to Improve Interactions
Learning how to interact with your loved one will involve trial and error, especially as their disease progresses and their abilities change. However, the following strategies suggested by Next Avenue® can help you approach and respond to your loved one in effective ways.
- Be straightforward. The typical rules of reason no longer apply when someone is living with memory loss. When you find yourself in an argument with your loved one, or you’re struggling to help them make sense of a situation, logical and reason likely won’t help you. Your loved one has lost those cognitive abilities. Instead, it helps to be straightforward with the information you need to convey. Avoid arguing and simply tell your loved one what they need to know for that moment.
- Accept their reality. Since people with memory loss retain long-term memories better than newer ones, they could easily forget recent events. Sometimes, memory loss causes a person to confuse reality and perceive their own. While this may cause challenges when it comes to care (if your mom tries to leave the house each evening, believing she’s working the nightshift at the hospital, for example), sometimes a person’s altered reality is harmless. Correcting them may inflict unnecessary confusion and agitation for them. In these cases, it’s better to accept where they are and carry on with a conversation that keeps their dignity intact.
- Fibbing can be a good thing. Although it feels counterintuitive to lie to someone we love, it is sometimes necessary when caring for a loved one with memory loss. Their disease may make it difficult for them to take care of themselves, in which a fib could help solve the problem of them refusing to go to the doctor. Sometimes, the truth could cause more irritation or suffering, whereas a fib could soothe and comfort. For example, if your loved one is insistent on going home, even though they’re in their own living room, saying, “I’ll take you home once we visit a bit longer,” can help calm your loved one until the moment passes and they may realize where they are.
- Take action. Just as trying to reason with your loved one will likely end poorly, so will making agreements or inciting new rules or routines. Instead, it’s up to you to take action when it comes to things like home safety. For example, you could discuss the dangers of leaving the stove on with your loved one, but you will likely have the same discussion day after day. A more effective approach is to take action yourself and purchase a tea kettle with an automatic shut-off setting.
- Turn questions into statements. As your loved one’s memory loss progresses, their ability to make decisions will decrease. This can make it difficult for them to answer questions that may seem simple and straightforward, such as asking what they want for lunch. Rather, you can bypass causing your loved one frustration to sort through the questions and simply state that it is time for lunch.
- Find a balance. When it comes to helping your loved one with everyday tasks, it can be hard to know what they can and can’t do independently. Many times, it would be easier for us to do something for our loved ones, but stepping in may discourage their independence and remaining abilities. Do your best to find a balance between independence and support, and recognize that this balance may change constantly as their memory loss progresses.
- Treasure good moments. There may be times when your loved one is doing well or is even completely lucid. In these moments, many family members can second-guess the severity of their loved one’s condition. However, this is just the nature of the disease. Your loved one will have good days and bad days, and all kinds of days in between. Learn to treasure the good moments your loved one experiences, but recognize that your loved one still needs your support as they go through the challenges of memory loss.
Helping You Take Care
With memory loss, we often need to remind ourselves that we are interacting with the symptoms of a disease, not the person we love. This can be especially difficult at times, and no family should have to deal with these challenges alone. If you or your family could use support throughout your journey with memory loss, know that there are resources available to help you. One such resource is the team at YourLife™ of Stuart. We don’t just care for seniors with memory loss. We care for their families, too. We understand the challenges of caring for a loved one, as many of us have experienced them firsthand with our own loved ones. That’s why our commitment to families is so strong. If you could use more advice on interacting and communicating with your loved one, or if you simply seek support and guidance for caregiving in general, reach out to our team today. We’re always here for you.
Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Stuart was created with one purpose – to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. As memory care specialists, we focus all our energy, attention and resources to creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality, while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families. Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We see each resident as an individual, understanding that everyone has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities. With that information, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence. Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection. Through our signature programming, YourStory, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and health and wellness programming, scheduled outings and other special events to personal care, assistance and multiple therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Stuart, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 772-207-4191 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.