How to help an elderly relative cope with memory loss
If you care for an elderly relative, you may notice that they start to forget words or the names of places. For most people, this is just part of the ageing process, and it is nothing more than a frustration. However, sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious condition like Alzheimer’s.
While Alzheimer’s is not treatable, other things that cause memory loss can often be treated. For example, depression, certain medications and even injuries can sometimes worsen memory loss, and these can often be treated effectively.
How to tell if memory loss is due to something more serious
The problem with memory loss is that it is often difficult to tell whether a more serious problem is affecting memory, or whether it is normal.
Usually, if memory loss is not affecting your elderly relative’s ability to function, it is often not a serious issue. However, if it starts to affect their life on a daily basis, it could be due to something more serious.
For example, you may have cause for concern if they:
- Experience difficulty remembering how to do things that they have done all their life
- Cannot remember how to get somewhere familiar like the local shop
- Have trouble following basic steps or instructions, like in a recipe
Importantly, you should look out for signs that the memory loss is getting worse. While most problems that cause memory loss do not result in a worsening of memory over time, dementia does get worse over the months and years.
What you can do to make it easier
Memory loss – even common memory loss that affects many elderly people – can be very frustrating. If you notice that your elderly relative is becoming frustrated, angry or agitated because they cannot remember things, there are steps you can take to help.
For a start, make sure it is not a big deal. When they forget a word or the name of a place, they may become frustrated, but try to tell them that you forget things as well and that it is perfectly normal.
In addition, don’t make them feel bad if they forget something important. Rather, make sure that you are understanding about it avoid getting angry at your loved one.
You could recommend and help with making lists, using sticky notes around the house, writing the shopping list and encouraging them to keep their keys and glasses in the same place.
You could also assist them in keeping their mind active by taking part in activities. Perhaps you could play card games with them, or encourage them to do the crossword. Helping to take them to social meet-ups and classes where they can enjoy hobbies is a great way to keep the brain active.
Check with the doctor if you are worried
If you are at all worried, plan a trip to the doctor. They can then check medications and other factors to find out whether there is something more serious going on.
It could be down to medications that your relative is taking, including over-the-counter medicines, prescription medications, antidepressants or sleeping pills.
It may be due to stress, especially when it is the result of emotional trauma. If your relative has lost anyone recently, or perhaps a loved pet, this could be a factor.
Memory loss could even be due to lack of sleep. Not getting enough quality sleep is a problem that affects many elderly people, as we have written about before on the importance of sleep for the elderly.
Getting help for dementia
If it turns out that your relative is suffering from dementia, you should seek help as soon as possible. Your doctor will provide you with some useful resources, but you can also look for local organisations and groups that provide support for people with dementia and their carers.
Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging, so make sure you also get the support you need. This can include meeting up with other carers in your area, or hiring Respite Care once or twice a week so that you get at least one regular break.
There are some excellent strategies for coping when you care for someone with dementia, and here are a few tips on memory loss that can be very useful.
Don’t let memory loss become a problem
If there is no particular reason for the loss of memory, don’t let it get in the way of your relative’s quality of life. While it can be frustrating, it is often nothing to worry about, so help them to cope better by using some of the tips outlined, and make sure memory loss does not become an issue for them.