Memory Loss Strategies for Caregivers
by Azura Memory Care of Wausau
When a person begins to show signs of memory loss and even after they are diagnosed their appearance seldom changes. By looking at them they seem no different, but inside their brain is changing. Much like Cancer, Dementia is an umbrella disease that has more than 70 different spokes or types that stem from it.
Over 60% of all people with dementia will receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, but they can also be diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia, Huntington’s disease, Vascular dementia and many others. All dementias are classified as such because they are accompanied by memory loss and affect the person’s daily abilities such as cooking, getting dressed, driving, talking etc… In addition, all dementias are progressive, none of them have a set pattern as to what symptoms each person will have or length of the disease, but all will eventually result in death. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the most educated caregiver to walk away from hearing the diagnosis of dementia in complete shock. None of us want to believe that our loved one has a disease that has no cure, few options for treatments and that there is little we can to do to stop its progression.
It is also easy as caregiver to lose hope and feel as if there is nothing that we can do. What we fail to realize is that we can and are the key to our loved ones success through this disease and can help to enhance their quality of life in many ways. In fact, regardless of what this disease may take from them, we can ensure that they always feel our love and support by remembering the following:
Be positive – choose your attitude before you enter your loved one’s space. If you are smiling, the odds of them smiling back at you increase greatly! Use your expression, body language, tone of voice and touch to let them know you want to be with them and enjoy being with them. Focus on them - use your ears, eyes and heart to hear just them. Tune out the TV, phone and other distractions of your mind and focus on your time with them. If a loved one is struggling to carry on a conversation it’s OK to assist with word finding, but also give them time to respond and focus on what they are saying with their whole body, not just the lips.
Reassure and let them win – those with memory loss feel very confused or alone and will often insist that things have occurred that haven’t. It is human nature to want to correct them, but instead try to reassure and loo instead for the feelings they are trying to convey. If they say that they were in the Army when they really weren’t, perhaps they feel less important than those around them and want to improve their stature with the group. This statement might not be a lie, but the disease communicating its distress. Instead of correcting them, let them win and salute their efforts to connect. Later out of earshot you can correct the erroneous information, if that is needed.
Prepare for the marathon – unlike most diseases, the dementia disease process is not over in a few months, it can last from 2 – 20 years. Therefore it is important that you pace yourself and give yourself credit for every day of your caregiving journey and allow others to help you along the way. When you do you will also realize that you are not alone in the caregiving journey and can work together to strategize ways to ensure the success of you journey.