Elder Care Tips: Preserving Family Memories When One Is Diagnosed With Dementia
Elder Care Tips for Preserving Family Member Memories After a Dementia Diagnosis
Once a family member has been diagnosed with dementia, caring loved ones tend to wonder how to behave, how to interact with and how to preserve the memories and shared history of the one in cognitive decline.
I know through first-hand experience how frustrating this can be for both, the one with dementia and those who care for them. But with a little practice and attention, you can have family time exploring memories and history without frustration or difficulty.
My mother was diagnosed with dementia many years ago. Over the past couple of decades, expert caregivers have discovered ways of successfully interacting that can help eliminate the frustration and make spending time with your loved one enjoyable while continuing to share memories and make more family history together.
Manage Your Expectations And Be Aware Of Your Communication Style
Today, we have the luxury of having a video camera in every handheld device, so it’s much easier to preserve family memories than ever before. Communicating in a way that doesn’t confuse with your loved one may be a bit more challenging though. You will of necessity have to be much more aware of how you communicate.
It may take a little while to be aware of your own communication style but stick with it. Eventually it will be more natural, and you may find it helps in your communications with everyone in your life, not just the loved one with cognitive decline. Managing your expectations is also important. By that I really mean have no expectations. Don’t expect your loved one to remember everything. And don’t expect them not to remember anything.
Ask Open-Ended Questions And Make Comments About Events Or Photos
Looking at old photographs and videos can be wonderful for sparking memories and conversations. Ask open-ended instead of specific questions. Focusing on general memories and emotions. Exact facts and details are not important. The goal is to give the one with dementia the opportunity to share what they can and want to remember. Instead of asking questions like, “Who’s this” when looking at photographs, make comments that may spark a conversation. For instance, you might say, “This picture looks like grandma, or It looks like this picture was taken at your wedding.”
If you have specific questions you’d like to try to elicit answers to after a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, make a list and see how open-ended you can make each question.
If other family members are participating, ask them questions about the events you’re interested in knowing about that they may remember. This way of exploring a topic may stimulate memories in your loved one. Be careful not to interrogate or push your loved one. Be gentle with them. If they struggle to find the right words at first or they talk very slowly, keep listening. Your patience may be rewarded with a wonderful anecdote or memory.
Pay attention to signs of tiredness at your loved one’s limitations and adapt to opportunities for reminiscing according to their energy, mood, and desire. When members of the family adapt to the one diagnosed with cognitive decline without expectations, spending time together can be rewarding and can become wonderful moments in the shared family history.
September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. I hope you’ll join me in helping to raise awareness and to challenge the stigma that persists around Alzheimer’s Disease and all types of dementia.