WHAT TO DO WHEN AN AGING PARENT FORGETS WHO YOU ARE
“Is that you… son?” Brace yourself… it’s coming. Well, maybe. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. For families with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s, this question is all too familiar. Forgetfulness and memory loss are characteristics of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Memory loss is painful and particularly difficult for family members to cope with when their parent or loved one forgets who they are. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is projected to reach 12.7 million. Sadly, 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. That is why we’re here today providing three important tips for coping with this illness if it hits your family.
Forgetting the names of their children, or grandchildren, or mistaking their child for another person or family member is very common for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. And while this new reality may be shocking, to remind them that they’ve forgotten such an intimate detail about their life can be quite upsetting to them. It’s best to not tell them every time…
Most people aren’t prepared for these types of interactions. Caregivers, nurses, families members who have been through it before, they are somewhat prepared for this heartbreaking event. It’s an odd thing, when you say hello to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia because sometimes you know immediately that you look familiar to them, but then other times they have no idea who you are. It’s the hardest for people who are caregivers, daughters, sons, husbands, and wives.
Being that we are in the caregiving industry, we are prepared for these occurrences and although it’s always hard, we have some tips on how to deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia when it hits a loved one:
Don’t ask questions- let them be who they are! It’s natural to want to correct and ask questions of your loved ones suffering from these debilitating diseases. But it might bring them more sadness than clarity. The most common questions are, “Mom, who am I?”, “Who is this?”, “Do you know where you are?”, “Do you know where you live?”. The directness of the question can be confusing for someone living with dementia. Their memory recall is not as fast as ours, so undoubtedly when faced with these types of questions the easiest answer is a sheepish laugh followed by an “I don’t know.” As you can image, this answer can be upsetting every time, so keep the questions at bay!
Forget the past- stay in the present
For most people, relationships are built on years of memories. However, when someone forgets who you are, it can be hurtful and confusing to not only you, but them as well. Spending quality time with your loved one will help them feel more secure- like they know you even when they can’t remember who you are. Try holding their hand and listening to their favorite song. Spending time on things they enjoy doing now, in the present, is a beautiful experience for both of you. Not only do you get a piece of your relationship back you also provide them with a If you do decide to take a walk down memory lane, with good conversation and dialog, but you may also find that your loved one begins to remember so much more.
Many people living with dementia related to Alzheimer’s remember their childhood through their young adult lives quite vividly. Looking at old photos or discussing old family recipes or family vacations will prompt and orient their memory. Try this only when you believe your loved one is ready for this conversation.
We Remember Their Love When They Can No Longer Remember
Life without memories is difficult because memories are precious and mean so much to us. They remind us of who we are and the life journey we’ve had. Memories we share with those closest to us become a piece of our identity. Alzheimer’s may take these memories away from loved ones, but the inability to remember does not change who they are or what they mean to us, nor does it change the memories that we have collected over the years. Cherish the memories!
As caregivers, we are very up to speed on Alzheimer’s awareness and how to deal with patients and their family members. We are happy to talk more with you about these diseases and what our approaches are if you need that! Just contact us today!