Aging Options

Dealing with memory issues

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When we are faced with knowledge or information that shakes up our world view and turns it upside down, we resort to a kind of denial called cognitive dissonance.  It’s a natural response to avoid losing our emotional equilibrium and reduce psychological tension and distress.  Admitting to memory problems can be the road to loss of independence and many people actively fear being stuck in a nursing home.  Here’s an AARP article about some responses an adult child can use to ease the burden of memory loss.

The first thing to keep in mind when confronting possible memory problems is that Alzheimer’s isn’t the only cause of memory issues.  Some simple and rather innocuous reasons for memory loss include urinary tract infections and vitamin B-12 deficiency.  Before automatically writing off a loved one’s behavior as dementia, it’s important to visit a doctor and get a diagnosis.  Here’s some warning signs that a loved one needs help at home.

It’s also important to remember that if a parent or loved one is diagnosed with dementia, their new world view may no longer be your world view.  People with dementia can’t be rebuked or reminded into the “real” world.  That world no longer exists for them and your insistence that it does won’t make it so.

If a doctor confirms your loved one is at the beginning stage of dementia, it’s a good time to begin investigating whatever the cause of that dementia is so that you can ensure he or she gets appropriate care along their journey.  It’s also time to locate and update all of his or her estate planning documents such as trusts, wills, powers of attorney, etc.  If you haven’t had a family meeting about end-of-life plans, future housing and care plans, etc, it’s time to consider pulling everyone together to talk about what those plans mean.  Does your loved one expect to continue living in their current home, what steps have they taken to make that happen, what kind of help will be necessary to put that into place, are there finances for that care?  Those are only some of the questions that need to be answered while your loved one is still capable of answering them.  A LifePlanning seminar can help you begin that task.

Finally, remember you aren’t alone.  Millions of Americans have loved ones with memory problems for one reason or another.  Don’t try to re-invent the wheel when there are already untold resources to help you with this crisis.  Contact support groups, religious organizations, organizations for your loved one’s specific diagnosis and friends who are probably going through the same situation with their loved one.  Reaching out will help lower your stress and build your confidence and tolerance so that you can be a better caregiver.

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