Seeing your loved one struggling with memory loss is very heartbreaking. It can be hard to know how to interact with them, especially if they become frustrated. It’s understandable that conversations can sometimes be difficult. However, there are a few things that can help.
It’s important to keep any conversation at a level they are comfortable with. This can vary depending on the stage of their dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms. This really is a time where patience is indeed a virtue. If you are unsure of their symptoms or how things have progressed, our compassionate memory care staff can help you better understand your loved one’s needs.
It can help to speak with your loved one at a slightly slower pace. This helps them to process the conversation, without making them feel rushed or frustrated. Maintaining eye contact, and speaking gently, will also help them to be more receptive while still showing you care.
Below are a few questions or topics you can bring up, that might help steer the conversation in a positive way.
1) Would you like to go for a walk?
Questions that can be answered with a yes or a no are often easier for memory care patients to remember. When you ask a question like “What do you want to do today?” they might struggle to pick a single answer out of a variety of options.
Of course, you know them best, and what they like. It might be a simple stroll down the hall, watching the birds, or simply taking part in an arts and crafts project. If they say no, give them a moment or two to think, before offering another option. 2) Would you like a cup of tea?
This is another yes or no question that can help you to better understand their needs. If they aren’t necessarily a fan of tea, you could replace it with any other beverage, or perhaps a favorite snack. Comfort foods and beverages are important to all of us. Being able to share a meal or snack can be a great way for the two of you to connect.
Don’t be dismayed if you brought something special and they turn it down or take little interest. You may find a little while later that their interest returns or they simply might not be in the mood for it.
2) What do you think about this drawing or painting?
Individuals dealing with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often enjoy the opportunity to voice their opinions on a subject where there is no right or wrong answer. Some simple feedback on a piece of art in their room, or perhaps a picture brought from home can give them the opportunity to express themselves. It also reminds them that their opinions truly do matter.
3) The daily itinerary.
Individuals dealing with memory loss can have varying degrees of understanding when it comes to their schedule. Some might not remember exactly what was planned for that day and simply remember there was something important.
Keeping them up to date on their daily itinerary can help reduce your loved one’s fear and stress while maintaining positive expectations.
4) Reminding them that even you have lapses of memory.
Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers are prone to lapses of memory or struggling to find just the right words. It can be a source of frustration for them, and the stress can sometimes even derail an otherwise healthy conversation. If they remark about losing their train of thought, you might try saying something like “Boy that’s happened to me before!”
This gives them an opportunity to table the topic for a later time. It might also be an opportunity for you to ask them a positive question to redirect the moment. Just make sure you give them a little bit of time to come up with the answer before your redirect the topic at hand.
5) Suggesting a self-care need as if it was their idea.
People struggling with memory loss issues can sometimes be lax about their personal care needs. This might be something as simple as wearing a favorite shirt even after spilling something on it or forgetting to take a shower.
Telling them something direct like “You need to take a shower!” or “It’s time to change out of that shirt!” might be met with resistance. Being told to do something can make your loved one feel like they aren’t in control of their choices.
Reframing it like a question can increase the chances of a positive response. In the case of needing to change an article of clothing, you might pull an alternative shirt out of a drawer and say “I really like this shirt! Could you try it on for me?”
6) Would you like a hug?
Touch is very important to all of us. A comforting hug from a loved one isn’t just an affirmation of love, but it also helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Things like hugs, a gentle touch of the hand or shoulder help remind those suffering from memory loss that they are indeed connected to the people who matter most.
At the same time, it’s also something that connects you to them. The simplest forms of affection can also be a powerful affirmation that helps strengthen your own emotional fortitude.
It’s important to remember that seeing a loved one suffering from memory loss issues is an emotional marathon, rather than a sprint. Being able to connect with them will go a long way toward helping you maintain your own levels of self-care, so you can be there for the ones who matter the most to you.