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4 Sensitivity Tips to Help Educate Your Children About Grandma’s Memory Loss

by Frank Herold
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Sensitivity_Tips_Memory_Loss.jpgWhen a grandparent suffers from memory loss, it can be confusing for children. Little things that we all take for granted, like knowing someone’s name, can be a frustrating occurrence to a child who thinks of grandparents as infallible.

To minimize the impact on children, these simple tips will teach them to be more aware of the problem and be prepared to handle uncomfortable situations more adeptly. Socializing with family and children is important for older Americans.

Related Blog: 5 tips for helping your parent cope with vision loss

Patience

Correcting a loved one’s memory loss related mistakes will not help her remember. In most situations, the best course of action is to remain patient with her, and allow the slips to go unnoticed. It is important to teach your children that she isn’t intentionally making mistakes, that she is suffering from an illness. Just being kind and supportive will reduce the confusion for grandchildren and grandma alike. Gently reminding her, for example, of your name rather than being offended will help her consider the error and move forward.

Be Alert to Indicators

A lot of memory loss episodes will be preceded by tell-tale signs. If you can teach your children how to spot subtle indicators, it will help them be prepared for what is to follow. People with memory loss may suffer from sudden mood swings because they are having a difficult time coping with the inability to remember where they are, or who they are with. Other indicators include being improperly dressed, such as attempting to go outside wearing a housecoat when it is raining. It is more helpful to make suggestions that would correct the issue than to make demands. The important lesson for children is that grandma is ill, not intentionally making mistakes, and what she really needs is a loving approach.

Cognitive Redirection

Cognitive redirection occurs when a suggestion or gentle persuasion is used in lieu of a direct demand. Children may not understand why grandma is behaving erratically, but they can adjust to her in a way that avoids confrontation. Ask her if she’d be more comfortable wearing a sweater instead of commanding her to put on something warmer. Teach your children to imagine the desired result and then try to maneuver in that direction without sounding bossy or rude. Remember, she does not want to be a burden, she is simply unable to control some of her unconscious thought processes.

Simplify the Environment

Unfamiliar things can trigger irrational responses in memory loss victims. Children can help minimize the threat by maintaining a regular, well-defined routine. One method might be to ask her to go for a walk, or offer to travel with her through the flower garden if she has mobility concerns. During the walk, point out different types of flowers and name them, or talk about events that have happened in your life. Tell her stories, presented as though you are telling them to a stranger, and encourage her to participate by elaborating on parts she remembers.

Keeping the home in order is also important. Rearranging furniture can be especially troublesome, or eating meals at varying times. Give grandma a routine that she can depend on and look forward to, and introduce each new activity during the day with a question such as asking her if it is time to take her medication, or whether she’d like to visit the living room.

Grandchildren can be very instrumental in helping her remember special events or relive portions of her life. For you, as the parent, keeping your children in the loop will be helpful to you and to your elderly loved one. Even though she may not always remember their names, she will still have a deep-rooted connection to her family, and children will give her a stable outlet as well to help her stay in touch with routines and activities that are important.

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