For some, it happens gradually over a period of many months; for others, it happens suddenly, almost overnight. But however it happens, most of us become caregivers at some point in our lives, and for many of us, that means looking after a family member with memory loss. So we offer these key concepts that will help you meet the challenges and achieve a positive outcome.
In looking after a family member with memory loss, there a couple of things you need to be aware of and hold before your mind at all times. The first of these is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for all sufferers of memory loss – not even for a single individual all the time. The second one involves the fact that memory loss is often accompanied by a host of other issues.
Adaptability is key in caring for a family member with memory. The reason is that there are so many kinds of dementia (the most common root cause of memory loss), and each form of the disease affects different people in different and unique ways. Ultimately, this means that there is no single approach that works across the board all the time. It’s also why family caregivers can be so effective: they are willing and able to make the necessary adjustments and help improve quality of life.
Memory loss is a classic symptom of dementia, but it can also be a major symptom of other cognitive impairments/diseases. In addition, if your loved one’s memory loss is a result of dementia, you will need to be prepared to deal with other symptoms as well, such as odd moods and difficult behaviors.
A good dose of realism is also needed in caring for a family member with memory loss. A realistic assessment of what constitutes success is vital in caring for someone afflicted with a progressive, irreversible disease. That is, you need to be aware that there will be the inevitable bad days along with the good days. And every good day is a minor victory and a success.
Similarly, a good caregiver, especially a family caregiver, is also empathetic. Memory-loss sufferers will experience no small amount of confusion and resulting frustration. Being able to empathize with the person in this situation will allow you to understand the cause of the confusion/frustration and then help the person work through it. You need to be able to put yourself firmly in the other person’s shoes and try to feel what it’s like not to recognize your surroundings or even be certain of your own identity.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Not only can caring for a family member with memory loss be both financially and physically draining, but it is also usually emotionally exhausting. So don’t hesitate to call on the help of the host of support groups available to most people in most areas. These groups give you a place to vent without being made to feel guilty for it. They are also a great resource for tips and strategies from experienced people who have faced the very same challenges you are currently facing.
You’ve probably heard it said in other contexts, but the old saw is especially applicable for those dealing with dementia and/or memory loss (both the sufferers and the caregivers): “The only constant is change.” The disease will progress, and those with moderate to severe cognitive impairment will likely require specialized, professional care, often 24-hour-a-day care. And for your family member, you’ll want the best available memory-care option. So search for a memory-care facility near you, and find what you need.