Having an elderly parent that is going through memory loss can be a difficult time. Seniors usually know that their memory is failing and their physical abilities are in decline and it can be a hard time. They have a lot to deal with, especially around the time where they have to move into adult communities or retirement homes. It’s easy to get frustrated at them and say hurtful things but we should stop, take a moment and think before we say anything that will make the situation worse. It may sadden you to see your parents aging but it saddens them even more when we say things that remind them of their situation. Here are a few things that shouldn’t be said.
“Did you forget that, already?”
Seniors lose their short term memory first before their long term memory goes so even if something big happened the week before, they might have already forgotten. For example, if your parent is still driving and you had a huge discussion about them getting the registration renewed, the following week when you ask them about it, they may not remember. Instead of the exasperated question, try saying this instead:
“Take a look at the sticker on the license plate. That’s this month. If you don’t get it updated, your going to have a pay a lot of money.”
Placing post it notes as reminders on their steering wheel and bathroom mirror might be a nice way of reminding them without nagging.
“You can do that. You’re just not trying.”
How hard can it be to tie your own shoe laces? For you, not very hard. But for an elderly parent who’s shaking hands make it difficult to grasp the laces or aching back makes it painful to lean over, it’s pretty difficult. Instead of getting annoyed, be patient and try saying this:
“Do as much as you can so I can see where the problem is and then we can figure out how to fix it.”
Seniors want to be able to do everything themselves. They don’t like having to have help, especially from their children so try to go about things delicately without rushing to their aid to quickly. If they are living in one of the adult communities, quietly let a caregiver know what is going on.
“I literally just showed you how to do that on your phone!”
New technology can be a really hard concept for elderly people to grasp. They didn’t grow up with technology like we did and as fast as technology is moving, it can be overwhelming. If your parent is trying to figure out how to take a picture on their phone and just does not seem to be getting it, try saying something like this:
“I’ll show you again how to get to your camera and I’ll write it down so next time you can follow the directions.”
Your parent will appreciate the initiative and then seeing the steps written in front of them might help them to understand better. Just make sure you write big enough if their eyesight is failing.
“What are you talking about? That doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
If one second you and your parent are sitting in the assisted care adult communities that they live in, discussing poetry and the next minute he’s talking about his old job, it can be hard to keep track. There can be a few reasons for this. Either, he wants to change the subject or his mind is incapable of staying on one topic for too long. If the subject is important to you, simply steer the conversation back again:
“I do remember Joe from your work. Remember that one poem you read me…”
However, if the conversation is not that important, simply go with the flow of whatever your parent wants to talk about.
If your parent lives in one of the assisted living adult communities, they may not get to see you that often and really just want to connect with you again. While senior living communities can be quite nice, it’s always a reminder that they can not take care of themselves. Try and be sensitive to their feelings and remind them how much you love and care about them.