Discussing memory care with someone you love is difficult on all sides. Navigating one of the most challenging conversations of your life with a parent or loved one experiencing memory loss or cognitive decline. Striking a balance between compassion, empathy, and logic, is a stressful endeavor.
We’ve compiled a list of considerations to help you navigate this difficult time.
The Need for Memory Care: When is Right?
Understanding when to begin a memory care journey, even exploratory, is the first stressful endeavor. Recognizing the signs that a loved one might need memory care is crucial for ensuring they receive the appropriate care, support, and most importantly, empathy.
Here are some signs you might need a professional memory care assessment for a loved one.
Memory loss affects daily life
In many cases, this is the most obvious indicator that there’s a potential issue. When memory loss goes beyond typical forgetfulness and starts making daily living challenging, it could indicate a more serious issue.
Difficulty performing familiar tasks
When a senior appears to need help with what once were mundane tasks, cognitive struggles might be setting in. These tasks might include cooking, cleaning, changes in hygiene, or managing medications.
Disorientation, confusion in familiar places
If your loved one frequently appears lost in what should be familiar settings, this could be a warning sign. If they are avoiding activities or interactions that they used to enjoy, this too could be a sign of cognitive decline.
Mood, behavior changes
Noticeable and concerning mood shifts for no apparent reason can be a sign. Increased agitation and apathy are common signs of memory issues beyond what’s normal.
Other signs include communication issues, poor decision-making, and a withdrawal from social activities.
Preparing For The Conversation
Once you’ve decided that initiating conversations with a loved one regarding memory loss is important, it is crucial not to rush the process. Preparing for a memory loss conversation is equally as important as having the actual conversation.
Do research on memory care communities
The first step in the preparation process is getting your bearings in memory care communities.
What are memory care communities? What type of memory care services are important to your loved one?
When you have this conversation, conveying positivity will be crucial. And you can only do that when you fully understand how memory care communities work.
Our How to Choose a Memory Care community guide is a wonderful resource to this process.
Visiting memory care communities can vastly increase your understanding of how these communities can help your loved one thrive in their golden years.
Choose a comfortable setting
The place you choose to have the conversation is as important as the conversation itself.
Pick a place where your loved one feels at ease and safe. Remember, people experiencing cognitive decline often gravitate towards places they are familiar with because it makes them feel safe. This could be their home or a family member’s home.
If you’ve found they are uncomfortable leaving their home, prepare to have the conversation there.
The conversation should be held in a private setting. Avoid public places and don’t invite lesser familiar people to join. Too many family members might feel overwhelming to your loved one who may struggle to recall names, or recognize people.
Choose a setting that’s free from distractions. Turn off televisions and mute phones.
The environment should be quiet, calm, and peaceful.
Consider what time of day your loved one typical experiences their best mood. If they tend to seem groggy in the evening, avoid that time.
Prepare for an emotional response.
It’s best to have a plan for various potential emotional responses. Discussing memory care is likely to elicit strong emotions such as fear, sadness, and, potentially, anger from your loved one.
Have tissues at hand, and have a plan for these various potential responses. How you react is imperative to the process. Your role as a loved one is to maintain a position of calm and empathy in the face of any and all reactions.
Addressing Concerns, Misconceptions
Now, it’s time to anticipate common concerns and misconceptions and develop a plan to navigate them.
Loss of independence
Many seniors fear that moving to a memory care community means losing their last remaining independence. This may cause them to react negatively to the conversation.
It’s important to emphasize that memory care communities are designed to enhance and maximize residents’ lives, not restrict their independence. It would help if you conveyed that a memory care community will expand their lives.
Fear of being forgotten
Some seniors may worry that friends and family will forget them once they move into a memory care community. You’ll need to positively reassure your loved one that you’ll have an ongoing involvement with their care and commit to regular visits. Convey that any memory care community chosen should be near you and your other family and friends.
Concerns about quality of life
Seniors may feel that a memory care community life is mundane and boring and, overall, unfulfilling. You’ll want to highlight various programming, social opportunities, and personalized care plans and dining options that enhance quality of life.
Concerns over cost
The cost of memory care can be a significant concern. You’ll want to offer a transparent perspective on how the financial planning is being accomplished.
Brooke Schoch, Director of Sales and Marketing at Seasons of Danvers, a Massachusetts based memory care community, believes in staying positive, consistent, and encouraging as the most beneficial way forward.
“Compassion and understanding that someone you love is going through a difficult change is the most imperative first step for family members,” she explains.
Change can be scary for all of us, but even more so for people experiencing memory and cognitive decline. As Brooke explained, stay positive, consistent, and encouraging.