Published: Oct 18, 2016
Needing to have a talk about Alzheimer's disease or memory loss with a parent can be a daunting task for many adult children. For seniors, the idea of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease can trigger fear, anxiety, or even grief. It’s no wonder some adult children put the conversation off, once they see the initial signs in their loved one. What’s more, if the afflicted senior already has impaired judgment or memory loss from the disease, it may already be too late for a rational, cohesive conversation about it. In any case, it’s wise to approach the topic - and your loved one - with great sensitivity and care.
Taking Your Loved One to See the Doctor
Symptoms related to the early signs of Alzheimer's disease, such as memory loss, confusion, mood swings, changes in personality, difficulty completing certain tasks or finding the correct word could also be caused by a number of other medical or psychiatric problems. Mentioning that your loved one’s symptoms could be the result of another underlying issue may make him or her more willing to visit the doctor for a full examination and a proper diagnosis.
You may also want to consider offering to go to the doctor with your loved one as part of a morning or afternoon outing, such as going to lunch, shopping, or some other activity. An enjoyable event could take the sting out of having to visit the doctor for a firm diagnosis.
Once Alzheimer’s Has Been Diagnosed
How you approach your loved one to talk about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can depend on your relationship with him or her. Are you close enough to have a frank conversation, and will the senior readily welcome your suggestions and help? Or does your loved one tend to keep things private, and could become embarrassed or self-conscious? Will he or she feel insulted? However you approach your parent, it is imperative for him or her to feel supported and encouraged during this difficult time.
Researchers have found that families who don't discuss the disease with their loved one may witness increased fear and paranoia. Instead, it is better to be open about it, while reassuring your loved one that it is a fairly common brain illness. Tell him or her that there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it, but there are things that can help slow the disease and you will do your best to help. Also, allay any fear of abandonment. While it’s scary to think of losing memory and forgetting the family, it is even more frightening to think that the family will forget them. Ease your loved one’s anxiety by telling him or her that no matter what happens, you will get through it together.
Discussing the Diagnosis
Hearing about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis from one's child can be hard to take, but chances are your loved one already knows that something is going on long before a doctor reaches a diagnosis - and he or she has the right to know what is happening. Here are some suggestions on how to discuss the disease:
Comfort Keepers® can help. We have compassionate in-home caregivers who are specially trained to work with a family member who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Call your local Comfort Keepers® office to discover all the services we can provide for your loved one.
DementiaToday. “How to Have “The Talk” with Your Parents”. Web. 2015.
Caring.com. “How can I get my mother to acknowledge that she has Alzheimer's?” Web. 2016.
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Health Guide. Web. 2012.
Alzheimer’s Association. 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Web. 2016.