It is a simple fact of life that as we age, our memory tends to diminish. Not everyone will suffer from the same amount of loss of memory, but nearly all will find some degree of difficulty when trying to remember even the simplest things.
Many older adults rely on family to help them with their memory loss as the most simple of tasks become frustrating and unattainable. Some individuals will go into memory care communities where they are taken care of and given a safe space to live.
Here are 8 ways to help your loved one when they are suffering from memory loss.
1. Practice Patience
Memory loss is a difficult illness to comprehend for the person suffering from it. They will become frustrated easily as once routine tasks become problematic and challenging.
They will look to you for answers, many of which you won’t have. The best you can do is reteach them what they are trying to do. For example, tying their shoes. Take your time and be patient for they are like children, relearning something you take for granted and do every day without thinking.
2. Avoid Changes
It is best to keep the same routine with a loved one who is suffering from retention issues. Keep items they use, such as a coffee mug or a television remote control, in the same spot day after day. This will help them retain the memory of an item better when it is always in the same location.
If your loved one can still read, make a list or draw a map of what is to go on and when. Labeling everything and each room will also be helpful. Writing out the steps to making coffee or getting dressed, from choosing a top and bottom, will help them feel more independent and boost their self-confidence.
3. Limit Anxiety
Many individuals with memory problems have higher anxiety when they feel they can’t do something they have always done. Don’t make a big deal out of anything when it comes to what they are doing. If the person is using a fork upside down or can’t figure out how to brush their teeth, don’t get upset about it.
You can correct them without saying a word, or tell them to try it “this way” and show them the correct way to do what they are failing to comprehend. Always try your hardest not to make a big deal out of something and don’t show your own frustrations if at all possible.
4. Provide Structure and Stability
Make sure there are a regular routine and structure for the person suffering from memory loss to follow. When things are structured and they know what is expected of them, the person will have an easier time completing tasks.
A stable and structured day will help to boost their short-term memory and give them the confidence they need to complete even the smallest of tasks. Make sure they know what is coming up throughout the day.
When there is a change in patterns, this is when a person with memory loss tends to get upset. Make sure you remain calm and act as if changing plans is no big deal or actually part of the plan all along.
5. Be Flexible
This may sound like the opposite of sticking to a schedule, but there will be times the person won’t want to do what you are planning. This is when you may need to adjust your expectations and plans, if only for a short period of time.
If for instance, your family member doesn’t want to go to the store with you, you can wait it out, distract them, or make a game out of finding and jumping in the car.
6. Keep Up With Their Health Needs
If you are caring for a loved one with memory loss, it will be up to you to help them maintain their overall health. This means getting regular checkups, visiting the eye doctor and the dentist on regularly scheduled appointments.
If your relative is not wanting to eat or smile or having trouble speaking, this may be a sign that their mouth is hurting in some way. The same can be said about their eyesight, be on the lookout for the difficulty in seeing things. Take these clues seriously and get them to the proper doctor for an evaluation before their health declines.
7. Keep Things Simple
Don’t add a lot of new information at one time. If you have hired someone new, to help out, simply tell your loved one their name and that they will be helping. Don’t give too many details at one time.
If the name of the new person is forgotten, which it will more than like be done, simply state the person’s name again. Don’t ask why they can’t remember or ask them do they remember. There is no reason to put more stress on them.
Incorporate games or puzzles or things they have always enjoyed into their everyday activities. As long as they are not getting frustrated or overwhelmed, these are a good distraction against their memory issues.
8. Take a Break
It is important for someone who is caring for a loved one to take care of themselves. This means taking a break when needed. There is no shame in asking for a break or getting outside help for someone suffering from memory loss. No single individual can take care of someone else alone forever.
Be prepared for the time when your loved one will need constant care and in a facility where they will be safe. It is admirable that you may want to take care of your family until the end in their own home or the environment they are used to being in every day. However, this is not always possible or practical.
Take each day as slow and careful as possible. The key is to remain calm and help them feel relaxed and confident in what they say and do. Messes and mishaps will happen, so go with the flow. Enjoy your time with this person as it may be limited.