Conversations with Dementia: The First Talk
In this series, we will be discussing different aspects of talking about dementia from the first talk you might have with a loved one, to speaking with a doctor, to how to speak with someone who has dementia in a dignified manner.
One of the hardest discussions you might ever have is the one with a loved one about signs of dementia that you have noticed them exhibit. Hard conversations like this can be difficult to start, and even easier to avoid. However, waiting to start this conversation will only make it harder later. Let’s talk about some things to think about when preparing and talking to your loved one about the possibility of dementia.
Do your research
Before you go into a conversation as big and complicated as this one, it’s important that you do your research, so you know what you want to discuss. In your research, look for specific symptoms that your loved one might have exhibited and be able to cite those instances to help them understand why you are worried. Another look through research will show you that cognitive decline and memory impairment can be caused by a number of other treatable conditions and might be a good place to start. Since there is no cure for dementia, it might be hard to start with that as the lead. However, by learning about other possibilities, you can start the conversation in a less terrifying space.
The sooner the better
As we eluded to in the introduction, having this conversation earlier will make it easier. For one thing, if your loved one is suffering from dementia, the longer you wait, the harder it will be for them to understand and remember the moments you cite about their symptoms. As dementia progresses, short temper and frustration are more likely, which can easily complicate the conversation you are trying to have. If they are dealing with a different condition, letting it go could lead to worse outcomes than if it was discussed and dealt with earlier. And, as we have touted throughout our messages, the earlier you catch dementia, the better the chances of positive outcomes.
“Waiting to start this conversation will only make it harder later.”
They are still your loved one
It’s easy to overlook the fact that you know your loved one better than anyone else. If you are seeing signs of dementia, it might not be so small. You know how they usually act and what to expect from their abilities. If you are noticing something, don’t second guess yourself.
It’s also important to remember that if you are here, ready to have this conversation, this isn’t the first time you’ve had a hard conversation with your loved one. You’ve undoubtedly been through hard times and hard conversations and you both are still here, still loving one another. As a loved one, we are given permission to start these conversations because they know we care about them. Focus on that to keep yourself confident.
Even saying all of this, it doesn’t mean the conversation will go well the first time, or even the second, but……
Keep having the conversation
Don’t be afraid to bring it up again. There is a lot to think about and one conversation, no matter how well it goes, will not be enough to get through all the things you might want to discuss or do. You don’t need to bring it up in small conversations that can seem antagonistic. Bring it up when you have the time to sit and discuss it. That can go a long way to helping everyone understand what is going on and what can be done to help.
Go to the doctor with them
If you get to a point where your loved one is willing to go to the doctor, go with them! This can be helpful for a couple of reasons. First, this can help ease the difficulty for your loved one. Admitting to struggling with memory is difficult. Your support can go a long way in helping ease that stressful situation. Second, and just as important, if your loved one is dealing with memory difficulties, they might not be able to accurately tell their doctor about the symptoms they are showing. Be there to help fill in the gaps.
With that, don’t dominate the conversation at the doctor’s office. While it’s important that the doctor get all of the information, it’s also important that your role is one of support. Allow your loved one to talk through what they can and add things as you can. Dominating the conversation can cause contention and keep things from happening in a productive manner. (We will talk about this conversation more in a future blog)
In conclusion, there are no big revelations here. This conversation is hard. The fact that you are considering having this conversation is important. Getting to a place where you can have it is even more important. Remember, do your research, have the conversations you need to have now rather than waiting, and always remember that this is your loved one and love is a two-way street. Finally, if you need any other advice or have questions, Kemper House Central Ohio is here to help. Feel free to contact us and we will help however we can.