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How to Talk to Someone With Memory Loss

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A photo of a senior man thinking with a yes or no answer. Asking questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”

The changes that come when someone begins forgetting things can lead to frustrations for the caregiver and the one suffering from memory loss. A memory care community is an excellent option for many older adults. But professional memory care isn’t an option for everyone, and it’s not ideal for everyone either.

A loved one or close family friend is often the first person to step up and provide care for someone as they begin dealing with memory loss. Without professional training, a person may not know to avoid open-ended questions or the importance of staying calm when talking to someone with memory loss.

If you’re here wondering what the dos and don’ts of caring for someone with memory loss are, keep reading. We’re discussing 5 practical things to consider when talking to someone who is forgetting things and several additional ways you can support them.

How to Talk to Someone With Memory Loss

These dos and don’ts aren’t necessarily applicable in every situation. A major goal is to begin thinking about the changes in how you interact with someone with memory loss.

Avoid Open-Ended Questions

Engaging with open-ended questions is typically the preferable way to have a conversation because it helps stimulate an engaging conversation. Unfortunately, when a person’s memory begins deteriorating, it can be difficult to keep up with these types of questions.

When asking someone with memory problems a question, it may be impossible to always avoid an open-ended question. But if possible, try asking questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”

Stick to Simple, Short Instructions

It’s convenient to give a short list of instructions when a task needs to be done. Most people won’t have a problem if they get 3 or 4 steps for a task. But when dealing with memory loss, this may overcomplicate a task.

Another related thing to remember is that complex sentences or words may also hinder communication.

Don’t Ask if They Remember You

Asking someone if they remember you isn’t necessarily rude or insensitive. But when you’re talking to someone with memory loss, especially once it’s advanced, questions like this aren’t ideal.

Many people who begin losing their memory are aware of what’s happening. So, asking them if they remember you or a specific event could lead to frustration, anger, or embarrassment if they don’t.

A woman is  comforting  an upset senior male.

Stay Calm and Collected

Someone who works in a memory care community or provides specialized respite care will typically have training that provides the necessary tools. The training isn’t necessarily required for a friend or family member to care for their loved one with memory problems.

But knowing how to deal with some of the frustrations could be helpful. It’s important to stay calm and collected when talking to someone with memory problems. 

Don’t Ask, “Do You Remember When…?”

Just like you don’t want to ask if someone remembers you, it’s also best to avoid asking questions like, “do you remember when…?” This could lead to the same frustration or embarrassment if they can’t.

This doesn’t mean you can’t still reminisce with the person. Instead, you could try saying something like, “I remember when…” as a statement. That way, you can still talk about fond memories without making the person feel like they’re responsible for the memory.

Other Ways to Support Someone With Memory Loss

A few other ways you can support someone as their memory loss progresses include:

Consistent Routine

Dementia or other issues leading to memory loss can often cause increased stress levels, frustration, and even anger. A consistent routine helps by giving a person familiar tasks and activities. By providing a consistent routine for someone with memory loss, you can help improve their quality of life.

Respite Care or Memory Care

Caring for someone with memory loss can sometimes be overwhelming for a friend or family member as a caregiver. If this happens, respite care for a short-term break may be the best option. On the other hand, a memory care community may be the better choice if a more permanent solution is needed,

Reassure Your Loved One of Your Love

Most people are fully aware of their declining memory. This can lead to feeling like a burden or frustrated because they can’t take care of themselves. Reassuring your loved one that you love and care for them is important and can go a long way to preventing low mood or depression.

Consider an Incredible Senior Living Experience

Talking to someone with memory loss can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. If you have questions, feel free to call our team at Distinctive Living. They are happy to answer what they can.

If you’re considering senior living communities, we’re happy to book you a community tour. This way, you can see how we assist your loved one in living their best life.

Written by Ryan Donahue, Regional Vice President

More Articles By Ryan Donahue, Regional Vice President
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