Don't Jump to Conclusions
Do you ever find yourself walking into a room only to forget why you made the effort? Do you forget someone’s name, even though you know the person well? Are there days when you fear you’ll forget to pick your child up from an activity? Although we often associate memory loss with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, many of us suffer memory recall challenges every day. I know I do.
If you find yourself or your loved one frequently forgetting the basics, then please consider consulting a doctor. However, don’t allow yourself to jump to the dementia conclusion immediately.
Many factors can cause memory deficiencies and many techniques can be used to improve memory recall. I’ve included four tips below to help you or your loved one remember past and present details.
Many factors can cause memory deficiencies.
When Should You Be Concerned That You Can't Recall and Take Action?
We walk a tightrope through these age-related decisions, don’t we? If we sound the alarm too early, then Dad might be offended and feel as if we’re micromanaging him. If we take action too late, Mom might hurt herself or someone else. (For an interesting perspective on micro-managing our parents, check out the article, What Aging Parents Want From Their Kids, in the Atlantic online.)
Our parents’ age-related memory deficiencies are the same kinds of issues that we Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers also experience every day—things like forgetting to make a payment or struggling to recall the right word in a sentence or searching for our keys like “mad” women as we run out the door.
However, when the issues are magnified and begin to affect Mom’s or Dad’s judgement and decision-making capabilities, we need to encourage our parents to consult with a doctor. For example, if Mom can’t balance her checkbook anymore or Dad sent money to a “shady” charity, it’s probably time to accompany Mom or Dad to the next physician’s appointment. Remember that you share memory issues with your parents; approach each appointment, discussion, and daily activity with patience, compassion, and grace.
My Go-To Resource
The Alzheimer’s Association website is my
go-to resource regarding memory loss and memory issues.
Not only does the site include information and guidance,
but it also includes checklists to help calm your nerves.
If the Is it Time to Worry? question has sent you into a
vicious spiral of indecision, please check out alz.org
and speak with your parents’ physicians.
STRATEGIES TO HELP RECALL IT ALL
#1 Modify Your Medications
Years ago, I lived with a chronic illness. I didn’t tell most of my friends; they only knew that I couldn’t drive at night because my prescription medicine made me feel loopy.
During the day, I struggled to remember details. I frustrated myself and my family as I forced myself to concentrate and remember. Thankfully, I no longer need the drug to get through my day, and my memory has improved (but it's still not perfect).
Check out this article 10 Drugs That May Cause Memory Loss on the AARP website, determine whether medication could be the culprit, and consult with your physicians about switching to a drug that might provide the same treatment without affecting your memory.
#2 Look and Listen
During my first job out of college, I was required to attend a Dale Carnegie class. According to the course, the best way to remember something, such as a person’s name or a list, is to associate the words you want to remember with pictures.
For example, if you want to remember redheaded Wanda’s name, you must first hear her name, and then, you might create an image in your mind of Wanda with a bright red nametag holding a huge wand in her hand.
Actively listen, create an image, and link the words you want to remember to the image. Try it—it really works!
#3 Put Down Your Screen
Before we had cell phones, pads, and pods, our brains had more downtime. With a few spare minutes, we enjoyed nature, listened to music, or daydreamed.
These days, all generations—Pew Research says even parents and grandparents—spend a good deal of that former downtime playing electronic games or interacting with social media.
The handheld, portable screen is with us wherever and whenever we go. Before we know it, our brains are addicted to the need for up-to-the-minute information and the need to feel “connected” every second of every day.
Unfortunately, when we are electronically connected, our brains become somewhat disconnected, and we find it harder to focus and remember.
Need to remember more? Consider limiting screen time for you and your loved ones. Set the timer on your screen and walk away. Just to keep you honest, you can even download an app that monitors the amount of time you spend on specific apps and games.
#4 Invest in Working with a Professional
When I first met “Denise”, she was afraid she couldn’t fulfill her daughter’s request to save and share her childhood stories for the family. The side effects of a surgery years earlier seemingly rendered her incapable of remembering certain periods of her life.
Thankfully, as we worked together, I used techniques that helped her remember many more events than she thought were possible.
When you or your loved one work with a professional adept at reminiscing with all five senses, asking the right questions, listening intently, and incorporating all of the details into a complete story, you will know how much your life matters to your family and the world.
Isn’t that worth trying to recall it all?
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This publication is based upon personal experience, research, and education. Although the author has made every reasonable attempt to achieve complete accuracy of the content in this article, the author and Sunday Dinner Stories assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or inaccurate information. For privacy reasons, some names may have been changed or omitted. The content is not intended to replace common sense, legal, medical, or other professional advice; it is meant to encourage, inspire, educate, and inform the reader. That means you should consult with your attorney, doctors, and other professionals if you have any concern about implementing our advice. But we hope you'll consider us your memoir professionals and will consult us for all your storytelling needs!
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