It is not easy to watch your loved one go through memory loss.
If you’re a family caregiver, chances are that you’ve know this person your whole life.
This is hard. And understandably so. None of this comes with a manual.
How can you help a loved one going through memory loss?
In today’s post, we will go over ways to help a loved one going through memory loss.
I will also touch on tips to help you deal with your emotions as a caregiver as you walk through this season.
How to help a loved one going through memory loss
Not all memory loss is related to Alzheimer’s Disease
First of all, it’s important to note that not all memory loss is related to Alzheimer’s Disease.
There are a number of medical conditions that lead to memory loss.
These include tumors or infections in the brain, a blood clot in the brain, emotional stress and mental health issues.
To be certain that none of these medical conditions are causing memory loss, talk to your loved one’s doctor.
It is better to treat a condition when the exact cause is found.
Have a frank conversation
Do you notice that your loved one is increasingly making bad decisions or judgments because of their forgetfulness?
If your loved one is still able to understand and have a conversation, you might want to sit down with them and discuss what the options are for their care and safety.
We don’t want forgetfulness to be the reason they get into a car accident, for instance.
Identify tasks that have become harder and provide support
Which tasks have become harder for your loved one to complete?
If they have forgotten how to put on their shirt or tie their shoelaces, you can provide more support here.
Or you can tell hired home caregivers to focus on those areas during the day.
One of the most difficult things to do for a loved one going through memory loss is getting them to take their medicine.
Nobody loves medicine.
So it makes sense that your loved one will refuse it.
However, if it is important that they continue to take this medication, there are a few things you can do.
- Crush medications and mix them with a soft food item such as apple sauce or yogurt. This doesn’t apply if the drug is an “extended release” drug that is only supposed to released inside the body.
- Ask your doctor if there are other ways for your loved one to receive the medication other than in pill form.
- Sometimes, if they have forgotten to take their medicine, it might be simple enough to just remind them that “this is good for your health so let’s take it real quick”.
Play games that improve memory
Games that allow your elderly loved one to think or memorize facts are great for improving brain health.
A study published by the American Society for Geriatrics in 2014 showed that when elders train their minds through thinking and memory games, they are able to improve their cognitive abilities and remain sharper for 10 more years!
They also found that the group that played these memory games were better at performing activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing up.
Sudoku, Scrabble and crossword puzzles are just a few examples of games that keep the brain healthy.
These types of games are easy to buy at your local store.
You will also find a giant library of games on the AARP website.
Encourage foods that improve brain health
People who eat a diet that is high in protein, high in good fats and moderate carbohydrates report feeling sharper and more alert than people on a high carbohydrate diet.
Foods high in protein include eggs, meat, fish, beans, lentils and peas.
Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 are also important for brain health.
Help them set up a safe home environment
Falls are among the top causes of death and injury for seniors.
Keeping the house safe involves time and effort but it will reduce the risk of falls for a forgetful seniors.
A few ways you can improve safety around the house include:
- Tape down or remove area rugs to avoid tripping over them.
- Keep the floors as dry as possible.
- If you have a 2-story home, you and your loved one may want to consider a stair-lift. This will help them get up and down the stairs easier.
- Lighting should be adequate. At night, keep night lights on so that your elderly loved one can see where they are going.
- In the bathroom, using bathmats to add friction or shower cares for those with mobility issues will also reduce the risk of falls.
Use visual prompts around the house
It might not be easy to help them recollect everything, but as a caregiver, you can use visual prompts to remind your loved one of things.
For instance, you might keep birthday, doctor, dentist appointments, etc., written on a large board in an accessible hallway of the house.
You might set an alarm that reminds them to take their medicine.
Visual reminders are helpful also for hired home caregivers who may not know everything about your loved one.
Consider your own emotions as well
Last but not least, it is important to consider your own emotions as a caregiver.
Dealing with these types of changes in a loved one you’ve known your whole life is difficult.
I highly recommend that you speak with a mental health professional about any emotional difficulties you might be facing.
There are so many ways to take care of yourself as a caregiver so that you can provide the best care to your loved one.
To read more on self-care for caregivers, read the following posts.