“Everyone Forgets Things” – Memory Issues and Misguided Phrases


Tea on the Screen Porch

Tea on the Screen Porch

How to Give Comfort to a Caretaker

My brother was visiting my mother and I took the opportunity to go out for dinner with a close friend. During cocktails I mentioned that my mother was having more and more difficulty with her memory to which my friend replied “Everyone forgets things. I am always misplacing my car keys.” I felt completely alone as the air rushed out of me. He had just dismissed my observation as an over-reaction that was not something to be concerned with. I felt marginalized. Didn’t he realize that I wasn’t talking about normal memory lapses? If it was normal I wouldn’t have attempted to share what I was going through.

My friend’s reaction was well intended and he meant to provide advice when all I wanted to do was share a very real change in my mother that I was dealing with and have it acknowledged. Think of all the times we have had reflexive responses; ‘You will get another job’, ‘You were lucky. It could have been worse.’, or ‘Time heals all wounds’. In my case I have heard them all and they all made me stop sharing and feel really alone in my caretaking. I wanted someone to say ‘I understand, tell me more’ or ‘that must be very difficult to deal with’ to let me know they were there for me and knew the challenges I was wrestling with.  Remember, when someone is working with a problem and you want to support them, acknowledge and listen without providing unsolicited advice.

Memory and How to Maintain It

Memory loss is a real issue and manifests in many ways. One of the strange things about the aging memory is that the senior might remember events from 40 years ago in great detail and not know what they had for breakfast. This may make you believe that their memory is fine when careful monitoring is called for. Check to make sure that cooking surfaces and garden watering hoses are turned off. Keep your own record of their appointments and any regular medicines they must take. What did they eat for breakfast or dinner? There are many sites that can provide memory tests to help you know if there is anything that needs following.

The more engaged the brain is the healthier it will stay. Crossword and picture puzzles, reading, and stimulating conversation all help. I know a senior woman who follows the news avidly and loves to talk politics. Physical activity promotes blood flow to the brain to keep brain cells healthy so consider a 30 minute walk at least three times a week. Keep them involved in the community with relatives and friends for more mental stimulation. A senior is old but not incapable. Let them help with cleaning and cooking and continue to be a contributor to society. They will thank you for it.

Do This – Not That

9 Brain Boosters to Prevent Memory Loss

What’s Normal, What’s Not, and When to Seek Help

Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer’s Disease?

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