How to Talk with an Aging Parent about Memory Loss

Taking care of senior family members is a responsibility that you take on out of love and devotion. Sometimes, though, it is difficult to know when or how to raise important issues.

One of the most challenging situations occurs when you begin noticing signs of memory loss. Knowing what to look for and how to talk with your loved one can help you navigate through this crucial time.

What Are Common Signs of Memory Loss?

It is not uncommon for people to become forgetful as they age. There are a number of possible causes of memory loss in elders. Some causes are more serious than others. Dementia is the most serious form of cognitive impairment. All forms of memory loss have symptoms that fall into three different areas:

  • Loss of mental ability;
  • Changes in personality, behavior, and mood;
  • Difficulty with daily routines.

Loss of Mental Ability Can Manifest in Different Ways

Loss of mental ability can become apparent in many different ways. Generally, problems with short-term memory develop first. The most obvious symptom of cognitive impairment is forgetfulness.

A senior with short-term memory problems may experience recurring instances of:

  • Misplacing objects;
  • Losing track of time during the day or forgetting what day or date it is;
  • Getting lost or becoming disoriented in familiar places;
  • Forgetting names or common facts;
  • Having trouble finding words;
  • Experiencing difficulty understanding verbal or written communication;
  • Struggling to use or learn something new;
  • Missing or forgetting about appointments or commitments;
  • Having difficulty managing money, paying bills, or keeping track of expenses;
  • Becoming confused or disoriented in new surroundings and with new people.

Changes in Personality, Mood, and Behavior Can Be Signs of Memory Loss

It is not unusual for an elder experiencing the onset of memory loss or dementia to be fully aware that he or she is starting to have memory problems. That awareness can lead to depression, and the elder may become very withdrawn.

Sometimes, the senior is completely unaware of the memory loss, but friends and family begin to notice changes in behavior or mood. The elder may be often irritable or moody. Seniors suffering memory loss can even become agitated and aggressive, even toward their caregivers.

An Elder with Cognitive Impairment May Have Difficulty with Daily Routines

When memory loss occurs, the elder often stops paying attention to normal day-to-day activities, such as bathing, doing laundry, shopping, cooking, and eating. Remembering to take medications can also be a serious problem. Lack of personal hygiene and weight loss may be signs that an elder is beginning to suffer from loss of memory.

How to Talk with Your Loved One about Memory Loss

If you think your loved one may be experiencing memory loss, it will be very important for you to proceed slowly and with great care. While you may want to solve the problems as quickly and efficiently as possible, your loved one’s instinct will be to preserve a sense of control and dignity.

Before you talk with your loved one, gather background information. You should document specific problems that you observe and research ways to address them, such as finding sources for in-home care or local assisted living facilities. If you know what options are available, you will be prepared to suggest them at the appropriate time.

The best way to broach the subject is indirectly by asking general and positive questions about how everything is going – health and doctor visits, the home and its upkeep, and leisure activities. If your loved one indicates having problems with any of the areas you ask about, you can offer to help find a solution to make things easier and more comfortable.

It is important to avoid being critical of your loved one and to try to maintain a positive tone. You will need to be patient and understanding and to avoid pressing issues when the time does not seem right. If the elder raises a subject related to a problem you have observed, take the opportunity to discuss it. Your discussions will go more smoothly if you encourage the senior’s input and give reassurance that you want to help.

When You Need Help Addressing Your Loved One’s Memory Loss

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you encounter total resistance by your loved one to any effort to discuss memory loss problems and solutions. Your best course in that situation may be calling on a professional who is experienced in helping families and caregivers navigate through this difficult time.

Adult children, other family members, and caregivers often need outside assistance evaluating their loved one’s situation and finding solutions to problems. Our attorneys at The Center for Elder Law, a division of Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C., are here to help. We can assist with every aspect of your loved one’s well-being, from recommending evaluation to assess the effect of memory loss to taking necessary steps to protect your loved one’s quality of life and assets.

You can read more about issues that caregivers face in “What Every Caregiver Must Know in These Uncertain Financial Times: Introduction to Elder Law for Caregivers,” written by our Michigan attorneys at The Center for Elder Law.

Are You Concerned About Your Own Memory Loss?

If you are a senior worried about your own memory loss, your first step should be to discuss your concern with your doctor. Everyone becomes forgetful to some degree as they age, and being forgetful may not be something to be alarmed about.

Our Michigan elder law attorneys are skilled in helping clients anticipate and address issues that may arise if memory loss occurs. You can read more about the types of dementia and how you can plan ahead to address it in this article written by our Michigan elder law attorneys.

Schedule a Free Consultation with One of Our Michigan Elder Law Attorneys

Our attorneys in The Center for Elder Law are ready to assist with all your and your loved one’s needs. Our experience and expertise set us apart. Don’t just take our word for it—read what our clients say about us.

Call us at (248) 213-9514 or complete our online form to set up your free consultation.

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