Talking to a Loved One About Their Dementia

Watching older family members and longtime friends suffering from a decline in health is difficult and often emotionally draining. It is also a universal experience that everyone must eventually face. The role reversal involved when having to initiate tough conversations with those who have been respected elders for a lifetime can be jarring for both parties. Unfortunately, the very factors that bond us to our loved ones mean that conversations around memory issues and increasing indications of dementia are unavoidable – and best accomplished when the topic is introduced earlier in the aging process.

When Does Dementia Occur?

Ernest Hemingway penned a famous line in “The Sun Also Rises,” when describing how one goes bankrupt, which is “gradually, then all at once.” The onset of memory loss and dementia can also be classified in this way. There is no single age, gender, race, profession, geographic area, or any combination of such factors that will accurately predict the start of a mental decline or early Alzheimer’s symptoms. The only way to pinpoint a time when a conversation has become necessary is by observation of the individual in question. Early indicators that memory issues are becoming, or may become, a concern can include neglectful changes in self-care habits, increasing frequency of lost items, a build-up of mail outside the home, or simply moments where your loved one appears to “tune out” or appear absent for brief periods.

How to Broach the Topic

Before starting a conversation, prepare yourself that the interaction may not go as planned. It is normal for seniors to respond in myriad ways to such an approach, with everything from anger and resistance to calm acceptance. Ensure that you have a calm and familiar environment with no distractions and appropriate privacy. Use “I” statements instead of being accusatory. Do not be surprised if you are met with denials when pointing out specific issues you have noticed with your loved one. These tips prepared by the Alzheimer’s Association can help direct your conversation and contribute to reaching the level of understanding that will help your loved one see that they may need a higher level of care in daily life to remain safe.

Memory Issues Versus Dementia

Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but certain memory/cognition issues are common as the years advance. The former is a condition that will continue to devolve until it is unsafe for your loved one to continue living independently with any degree of safety, while the latter can often be managed with certain tweaks and changes to ingrained habits. Dementia is best managed by skilled providers at a long-term care facility that can provide a full complement of services to ensure the quality of life during later years. The conversation around increasing care needs for a loved one who appears to be suffering from the onset of dementia symptoms can be made easier by pointing out the need for social services, physician services, and activities to improve daily life and outlook. Skilled nursing care allows for access to physical therapy occupational, and speech therapy, at a single location. Such availability of services and care is the reason why West Virginia residents have been entrusting their loved ones to Princeton Health Care Center since 1981.

Get Help For Dementia WV

Reach out today for a consultation and let our team assist you in helping your loved one make the transition to an appropriate and dignified level of care.