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Write down exactly when you notice these changes starting, and also how the changes have occurred over time. Let me give you an example. Are the changes gradual? Like has this been getting worse over time. Or all of a sudden? Like one day your loved one is fine, and then the next day they're slurring their speech, and they're confused. Did the changes happen with any falls or changes in medication? Did the changes happen with a big move like to a new home or across the country, or after the death of somebody very close? Pay attention to the timeline, and also to any stressful situations or changes that happened just before the memory loss started.
I'm Dr. Regina Koepp. I'm a board certified clinical psychologist and I specialize with older adults and families. I created the Psychology of Aging Podcasts to answer some of the most common questions I get about aging: questions about mental health and wellness, changes in the brain like with dementia, relationships and sex, caregiving, and even end of life. Like I say in my therapy groups, no topic is off topic, we just have to have a healthy way of talking about it. So if you're an older adult or caring for one, you're in the right place. Let's get started.
Last week, I talked about the 10 memory loss warning signs. If you missed that episode, listen to this one, then go back and watch that one. As we get started, I wanted to share with you a memory loss guide that I made just for you. It has a checklist of 10 must know memory loss warning signs. It tells you what you need to do if you're worried that your older loved one may have memory loss and talks about the benefits of early detection and diagnosis of dementia disorders. So head on over to my show notes and download it now it will really help you out. So today I'm going to dive deeper on what to do if you're noticing signs of memory loss in your older loved one.
So the first thing to do is write down what you observe. If you're noticing changes in your loved one's memory, go and listen to the episode that I did last week, which dives deep into the 10 must know memory loss warning signs and then download the free memory loss guide I made just for you. In there. I give you a checklist of the 10 must know memory loss warning signs. So use that checklist as a guide and then write down what you're noticing. So it's really important that you also keep track of specific examples. So for example, perhaps you noticed your husband getting lost the other day driving home from a store that he's been going to for years. Or perhaps your loved one left the stove on and is burning food. Or maybe your partner has been rummaging through drawers and can never find what they're looking for. Or an example I gave last week is maybe your loved one was an accountant and now is struggling with paying the bills. So be very clear and specific about what you're noticing. Use the 10 must know memory loss warning signs checklist that I include in my memory loss guide, download it from my show notes. Use that as a guide. You get the idea. So imagine that you're a scientist and you have to report on your loved ones behaviors. Scientists try to use objective examples. Write them all down.
The second thing to do, if you're noticing signs of memory loss is to pay attention to the timeline. So, not only do you need to write down examples, but you need to also write down exactly when you notice these changes starting, and also how the changes have occurred over time. Let me give you an example. Are the changes gradual? Like has this been getting worse over time. Or all of a sudden? Like one day your loved one is fine, and then the next day they're slurring their speech, and they're confused. Did the changes happen with any falls or changes in medication? Did the changes happen with a big move like to a new home or across the country, or after the death of somebody very close? Pay attention to the timeline, and also to any stressful situations or changes that happened just before the memory loss started.
Let me go back a minute. If all of a sudden one day your loved one is confused and their speech is slurred, you definitely want to get them to the doctor. I would not wait and sit on this list. If you're noticing changes that happened (yesterday, they were fine and today you're really concerned about them). I would definitely encourage you to get them checked out today. Don't delay.
So the third thing to do if you're noticing signs of memory loss is to share your concerns in a gentle and loving way. Let your loved one know that you're concerned about them. It can help to gently share some of the specific examples of what you noticed or what you've been observing... that you've been keeping track of from items one and two. And depending though on what's going on medically, they might not believe you, or they might think that you're making up lies about them. I've heard that all in my own clinical practice. Don't argue though, don't try to convince them that what you're observing is the truth. Don't argue. Just add their response to your list of observations. And then ask if they'd be willing just to get checked out by their doctor anyway. So the reason I say don't argue with them is that there is a symptom with memory loss and also a symptom with delirium (which is an acute medical condition) where the person might not have insight into what's going on, and that's okay. It's not your job to convince them that what's going on is going on. But it is your job to help. So you don't have to be "right", you just have to be effective. So don't argue Just simply note their response on your list, and then ask gently if they'd be willing to go to their doctor. Anyway, I hear a lot of you already responding by saying, but they're refusing to go to the doctor. So just bear with me for a minute, we're going to get to that point.
So number four is to help your loved one, go to the doctor. So if your loved one is able, ask them to make an appointment with their primary care doctor. If you think that your older loved one might not be able to do this on their own, ask in a non judgmental way and non imposing way. If you can help make the appointment for them. And then ask if you can also attend the appointment with them. If your loved one says no, write down your concerns and in a letter and ask your loved one to take the letter to the doctor. If your loved one says no that they're not willing to do that, you can always call your older loved one's doctor and give information to the doctor or the nurse. And that's sometimes what I do recommend doing. If you're noticing some pretty significant memory loss warning signs is to call the doctor. The doctor won't be able to give you any information about your older loved one, but they can receive information from you. This is where it's so helpful if your older loved one is working with a geriatrician, which is a primary care doctor for older adults, because it can help so much that there is a physician that understands the complexities that come with aging, and family dynamics. geriatricians tend to be more familiar with those constructs. So don't just sit on it. If your loved one says no and you're really concerned about them, call the doctor and give the doctor information. You can also ask if your older loved one and be willing to have a friend or another family member, go with them to the doctor if they don't want you to go to the doctor. This could also be a pretty good option if you live in another city from your older loved one. So, I just want to pause for a minute and say, if you're noticing signs of memory loss, it's important for your older loved one to see their primary care doctor first because this doctor can run tests and lab work to see if there are any medical problems or vitamin deficiencies that are causing the memory problems in the first place. Okay, so if your older loved one does, indeed allow you to go to the doctor with them, then bring that memory loss guide that you downloaded from my show notes and your notes, all your observations. Bring all of those to the doctor. And remember to include the specific examples and the timeline that you've been noticing. Tell the doctor that you're concerned and ask if they can help you figure out what's causing the memory loss. Sometimes something as simple as the vitamin B-12 deficiency or sleep problems or medication interactions, or urinary tract infections can be the reason that your older loved ones experiencing memory loss and those can get corrected. If it's something more complicated that requires more testing. Like maybe they need to see a cardiologist or a pulmonologist or a neurologist for further evaluation, the primary care doctor can refer you. So that's really important to see the primary care doctor first.
The fifth recommendation is to be respectful, be-E-respectful. So when you're at the doctor and if you're older loved one allows you to be in the room with them, don't jump in and talk over your older loved one. Doing that just makes them feel undermined. Allow your loved one and their doctor to talk to each other first, it can be really helpful for the doctor to actually hear how your older loved one is talking and processing information. If you jump in too often, the doctor won't be able to hear that. And it's part of assessment. Also, your older loved one needs to be able to trust their doctor. If you jump in too soon, it begins to chip away at the time that your older loved one and their doctor need to build their relationship. Let me also just say if you jump in too much, it might make your older loved one less likely to bring you to their future appointments. And I see this all the time in my own practice. I hear almost every day from my own patients that they're not going to let their family member in their medical appointments, because their family members spoke the whole time. So then, then I bet you're wondering, "well, when am I going to have a chance to talk?" So after the doctor and your loved one, have a few minutes together, then ask your loved one if it would be okay for you to share your concerns with the doctor. Even if your loved one has full blown dementia, and doesn't know who they are, or who you are. They're still an adult human being and still needed to be treated like one. I mean, I get it. I know you're super scared and stressed and worried. Maybe you're visiting your loved one just for this appointment and need to get everything in and you only have 20 minutes to do it. I hear you and that's going to add pressure and that's going to it's going to be really hard on you. But please, please be respectful. This will help you and your loved one in the long run.
So sometimes older adults outright refuse to go to the doctor. If this is happening in your family, I have an episode about this. So I'll link to it in my show notes as well. I also just want to say I've mentioned this earlier, but I want to kind of dive a little deeper again, on this concept of delirium and when you need to just get your loved one checked out immediately and not wait for a scheduled doctor's appointment. So if the changes occurred, suddenly, like one day your loved one is fine and the next day they're confused or delusional, which is having idiosyncratic or kind of strange or bizarre beliefs. Like they think that they're married to somebody from Kentucky who lives on a farm and are pregnant with triplets and they actually live in New York City. Or super paranoid, and afraid that bad things are gonna happen, like someone's constantly breaking into their house or stealing their things. And that happened overnight. Take your loved one to an ER for evaluation. If you want to learn more about delirium, and I really encourage all of the caregivers that I work with to learn more about delirium, because you need to be aware of the warning signs and what to do, I will link to my episode on delirium and also a blog post that I wrote on delirium that gives you lots of information about delirium. So please get educated about it. It will really help you out in the long run.
All right, so another episode just for you on what to do if you're worried that your older loved one has memory loss. Let me just go through them really quick and wrap it up in a pretty little bow. The first step is to write down what you observe. The second step is to pay attention to the timeline. The third is to share your concerns in a compassionate and loving way. Four: help your loved one go to the doctor, and five, be respectful.
If you're concerned that your older loved one has memory loss, go download the free memory loss guide I made just for you. It lists the 10 must know warning signs for memory loss, what to do if you're worried that your loved one has memory loss and the benefits of early diagnosis and detection. Speaking of the benefits of early diagnosis and detection, I'm going to be talking about that next week. So join me here again.
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As always, the information shared in this episode is for educational purposes only and should not take the place of licensed medical or mental health care. I'll see you next week. Same time, same place. Lots of love to you and your family. Bye for now.
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