Memory loss

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Man with head in hand, memory loss, confusion
Image by Gerd Altmann

First Signs

Moving in to take care of mom was such an eye opener. Since we didn’t see her on a regular basis, how were we to know? It wasn’t obvious to me at first. But when I engaged in conversation with her, I noticed she kept asking me the same questions over and over again. At first, I was impatient and then it turned into frustration. I thought she wasn’t listening to me (this comes from a deeper seeded emotion from childhood of not being heard by her). And then it dawned on me. Mom didn’t remember what she had just said.

Mom doesn’t have a specific diagonosis such as Dimentia, Parkinsons or Alzheimers. As of today, there is no early on set anything. However, her primary doctor does have her on a medication that helps with memory loss. I was only made aware of this when mom suffered her heartattack and the ER nurse called her pharmacy to ask what meds she is on.

Shamefully, I didn’t know what current medications she was on. I really had no idea what was going on with her life at all. That changed. All these years, I was busy trying to navigate my own motherhood, dealing with all my own challenges with my daughter.

Compassion. That is what I needed and sadly, what I lacked. I learned to just answer her questions over and over again. Correcting her only confused her. So my advice, just answer the darn question no matter how many times she asks it. Pretend like it’s a game. After all, why on earth was I trying to make someone with memory loss try to remember?(insert slapping myself on the forehead!)

I had to let go of control over something I had absolutely no control over. And once I did, my heart opened up. Frear and frustration no longer consumed me. Let me tell ya, when you master the art of letting go, it’s pretty amazing what it does for you. Peace of mind.

Don’t Panic

Don’t panic at the first signs of memory loss. Age-related memory loss is quite common. The human brain is capable of producing new brain cells at all ages. It is like a muscle and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Hence, why it’s so important that seniors stay as social as possible. Isolation is not their friend.

Typical signs of Age-Related Memory loss

  • Despite occasional memory lapses, one is able to function independently & pursue normal activities
  • Able to recall and describe incidents of forgetfulness
  • Pauses to remember directions at times, but doesn’t get lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty in finding the right words occasionally, but no trouble holding a conversation
  • Judgment and decision-making ability remain the same as always

Furthermore, normal age-related memory loss does not affect their ability to do the things they’ve always done and continue to do often. It doesn’t take away the wisdom and knowledge they’ve acquired from life long experiences. In addition, the innate common sense and ability to form reasonable arguments and judgments are still strong.

If you are concerned that is is more than age-related memory loss, I would definitely consult her primary doctor. Signs of more frequent episodes and changes in behavior may be key signs. And before you meet. You may want to ask other family members or friends the following questions:

  • How long have they noticed a problem in their memory loss?
  • What types of things have they had difficulty remembering?
  • Did the difficulty come on suddenly or gradually?
  • Are they having trouble doing ordinary things?

How can we help with memory loss?

So glad you asked!

Make your visit count. We can do so much to help slow down the memory loss process. We know how stubborn our parents can be, right? After all, they’ve always known best, haven’t they? Therefore, don’t let them in on the secret. They don’t have to know you’re trying to help because once they know, they’re going to refuse. Am I right?

If there are grandkids, make them part of the covert operation. What grandparents would refuse time with their grandkids? Okay…you’re right. There are exceptions to every rule. But in most cases, grandparents love time with their grandkids.

  • Teach them a new game.
  • Get them a crossword puzzle book
  • Get them a new book to read. Have them read out loud to the kids
  • Bring them magazines or newspapers for quick reads
  • Have them engage in a new skill (new recipe, art classes, learn a new language, etc.)
  • Improve the skills they already know
  • Take on a project that involves design and planning, such as a new garden, a quilt, or a koi pond. (Here’s where my expertise comes into play)

The more interested and engaged their brain, the more likely they will be to continue learning and the greater the benefits they will experience.

My advise to you, visit your mom or dad on a regular basis wether it be weekly, monthly or every other month. Make it a routine and make the time together count. Be as involved in their doctor’s visits or discussing their health as much as possible. If you feel your parent isn’t being forthcoming, then contacting her doctor may be more ideal. I garuntee you won’t be as overwhelmed as I was when emergency situations arise. Mom wasn’t upfront with me, but in all fairness, I wasn’t asking much. D

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