5 Helpful Hints to Plan Your Talk
From our research, we have assembled five tips for planning your talk.
Frame your approach - Understand how your loved one processes information. Do they like to be presented with details and facts? Do they prefer gentle guidance? Consider which approach will yield the best outcome and prepare. When memory loss affects a parent, no matter what age the child, there is a different dynamic than if the conversation is generated by someone less removed. This dynamic may affect your approach. See ideas below about who can help.
Identify the ideal location - Hearing a concern about a health issue needs to happen in a calm, comfortable environment. This talk is more appropriate in the loved one's home and not when something else is happening, like a holiday celebration.
Timing is key - Following the talk, families will likely want to confirm the cause of and the extent of memory lapses. Perhaps there is an underlying medical condition or medication that is causing forgetfulness or balance issues. If the talk could happen just before a scheduled doctor's visit, then specific issues can be addressed with a medical professional.
How to begin: Share with Compassion - Memory loss is not an easy conversation. In a supportive and loving way, share your reason for concern AND enforce your commitment to support. Shape your conversation as a way that you can problem solve together. Give specific examples without being judgmental. Instead of stating, "You haven't been paying your bills" perhaps phrase like this, "you seem to be finding it difficult to pay your bills." Express yourself compassionately. Talk openly and honestly. Convince your loved one that you want to partner with them in their care, not tell them what to do.
Feedback: Let the dialog begin - It is hard to say what gives you concern, but realize that it is also hard to hear. Be a good listener. You may get defensive pushback. Listen without interruption. Do not be dismissive. Try to understand from where the comments are coming. If your loved one has recognized memory loss in themselves, they have likely established a method of masking their symptoms so that they continue to live in denial. Fear of being discovered or fear of the reality of their situation can cause someone to lash out.
If tensions rise, take a break. Step back to ensure that the conversation remains respectful and calm.
This will not be the last conversation. However, if you can create a relationship that is safe and not judgmental, you will gain trust. End the conversation on a positive note and confirm agreed upon next steps.
Involve other family members to lend support to the conversation and the care. If denial shuts your loved one down, look for support from their physician. The health and safety of your loved one is paramount. Need more help? Ask your healthcare provider if they have a social worker that can assist.
Address fear that naturally rises by lending support. Reinforce the need to identify the underlying causes of the memory loss. Recommend that you accompany them at their next doctor's visit. Seek a second opinion if there is doubt or incomplete findings.
The "conversation" is more of a process. It will take time. Expect bumps along the way. With love and empathy, you can build a supportive partnership together.