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Before You Talk With Your Loved One About Alzheimer's

Perhaps it’s your mom, dad or other loved one who has begun forgetting some of the basics --- how to operate the coffee maker, where they keep the cereal bowls, or even how to get to the store. Or perhaps he or she has become more confused lately, asking the same questions over and over again. Regardless, you’re getting worried. Could it be Alzheimer’s? It’s hard to know what to do next.  

First take a deep breath. Resist the temptation to jump to conclusions.

For one thing, your loved one may not have Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic illnesses, depression and medications can cause confusion, fuzzy thinking, and lapses in memory. Don’t assume what you don’t yet know. And don’t impulsively confront your loved one with your worried concerns. Not yet.

Before you sit down to have that conversation with your loved one about his or her memory impairment, you have some work to do. Here is a short list of things that you will need to have on hand, not only to make that conversation easier, but for any discussions downstream you may have with your family and/or doctors.

  • Make a list of all your loved one’s known major and minor health issues and how they currently impact his or her life.
  • Make a list of all their medications and the time of day they are taken.
  • Start a running list of everything you observe your loved one doing that lies outside their “norm”. Include the time of day, where the behavior occurred, and as many details as possible.
  • Review “10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s”, a comprehensive list from the Alzheimer’s Association, which you can download here.
  • Familiarize yourself with the latest research and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Do this for your own benefit as well as to support any conversations you have with your loved one and other family members. The more informed you are, the more help you will be to yourself and others. Here is a link to our resource page.

Begin with knowledge and facts on your side.

Taking the actions on this list will help arm you for your discussions with your loved one, your family, and physicians. And the greater sense of control this gives you will, believe it or not, have a calming effect on you going forward.   

Of course, nothing can truly prepare us for something as daunting as an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. But if and when one is given to your loved one, by preparing in advance you will, at the very least, have your feet on a more solid foundation.