Taking care of an elderly parent can be a stressful time for everyone involved—to say nothing of how difficult things can become when major health conditions enter the equations. If your elderly mother or father has begun to show signs of dementia or Alzheimer's, for example, they may quickly be unable to care for themselves in any type of meaningful way. One of the biggest parts of making sure that they do get the love and support that they need involves understanding what memory care entails.
There are a few common mistakes, which can be particularly damaging when it comes to memory care, that you'll want to be aware of so that you can avoid them in any way that you can:
- Failing to understand what memory care really means.
- Over coddling a loved one.
- Unnecessary testing of memory status.
1. You're Approaching Things from the Wrong Angle.
One of the most common mistakes that caregivers make involves assuming that you can “fix” your elderly parent or other loved one if you just take the right steps. If your idea of memory care is approaching the situation like a problem that needs to be fixed or a puzzle that needs to be solved, you’re likely doing more harm than good.
This is a memory care mistake that is rooted in only the best of intentions, but that doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do. While it may help you deal with how scary and confusing your parent’s dementia and Alzheimer's diagnosis is, it isn’t a helpful approach. It turns memory care into a zero-sum equation where you know what is right and you must only explain to mom or dad why they are “wrong.”
But this isn’t helpful and will, in fact, only serve to confuse and frustrate someone with Alzheimer’s.
What you need to do is make sure that your loved one has everything they need to live as safely and as comfortably as possible.
2. You’ve Been Treating Mom or Dad Like a Child.
Another significant mistake that many people make when dealing with older loved ones is over coddling. Providing someone with the best possible care does not mean that you have to treat them like they're a child. They're still an adult and still deserve to be treated that way, regardless of whether or not they have Alzheimer's or Dementia. Your mom, dad or other loved one will absolutely appreciate being treated with the respect that they deserve in such a difficult period in their life.
3. You Keep “Testing” Your Loved One.
If you constantly find yourself quizzing mom or dad to try and help them remember things—certain events from your childhood or certain people who were prevalent in their life—you may only be doing more harm than good.
Don’t turn memory care into a test.
By continually asking if your parent or loved one remembers some person, place or thing, you're assuming that their memory works the same as it always has and that prompting will help them remember.
The hard reality of the situation is that if they don't remember something, they just don't remember—period. No amount of prompting on your part will help. All you're doing is creating a situation where the person both does not remember the answer to your question and is also incredibly frustrated by it.
Instead of posing these types of things as a question, you should instead say “I remember how much fun we had on vacation when I was a kid” and use similar, more positive language.